Time to step into the line of fire once more and add a few comments to this debate. Hopefully try and keep it short.
I understand the concerns that some have regarding poor standards and a 'reckless' attitude allegedly demonstrated by ferry crews (especially after going over the last few pages of posts. ) but please bear with me while i explain a few points which will hopefully alleviate any fears.
Firstly, most you on here will probably have some kind of nautical qualification, probably RYA based designed to give a good level of both theoretical and practical knowledge on how to use and operate a pleasure boat in an efficient and safe manner. This is very reassuring.
Some on here have commercial endorsements to their RYA qualifications meaning that they have passed an exam whose structure and content was based on guidlines set out by the Maritime and Coastguard agency.
Now, (without belittling it in any way) a commercial endorsment on an RYA qualification is a world apart from an MCA Master mariner certificate (class one unlimited).
To become the Master of a passenger vessel such as a ferry or cruise ship a candidate would first have to have served as a cadet with a shipping company. The cadetship takes four years to complete involving three years at a dedicated nautical college followed by one year spent at sea with the aim of achieving at minimum and HND level academic qualification
On completion of this and a series of both written and oral exams (including a 1-1.5hour interview with an MCA examiner) the candidate would be granted an 'officer of the watch certificate' allowing him/her to serve as junior officer under the supervision of the Master/chief officer.
Now from here on, the candidate will need to sit a further two sets of exams (Chief officer/Master) each spaced apart by a minimum of 18months seatime. Each set of exams becomes harder to pass encompassing a greater range of subjects with existing subject being examined in much deeper detail. Finally after all this and on completion of a final interview style oral examination with a senior examiner at the MCA, the candidate will be granted a Master mariner certificate.
Unfortunately this gives no guarantee of a job as Master as virtually all shipping companies require solid proof of comprehansive past experience before considering somebody for the job.
Most Masters employed on ferries will have at least 15-20 years experience before being taken on.
My point to all this?....well as an engineer it pains me greatly to say this but believe me when i do say that Masters of ferries (or any commercial passanger carrying vessel for that matter).....are far from idiots.
Are you lot
The Bilbao/Ouzo incident was indeed a tragic event and, as someone who has followed the above described training system and further spent some 22 years serving on various types of vessel, i hang my head in shame.
It was shamefull that the 2nd officer never turned the vessel around even after the AB (able bodied seaman) on watch with 2nd officer commented that he thought he saw something.
For information, it is standard procedure on all passanger carrying vessels to always have two people on the bridge during night time passages.
All ferries are required to have motion detectors fitted on the bridge triggering an alarm should no movement be detected after a short period of time (usually around two minutes).
VER (voyage event recorders) including microphones to record all conversations on the bridge are also mandatory.
To suggest that a cross channel ferry could be on passage with the bridge unatended is proposterous.
Thankfully, incidents like the Ouzo tragedy are very rare but, like in the aviation industry, when they do happen, they make big news.
To put things into perspective you have to look at the volume of cargo/passengers/goods that is carried in/out and around our country on an annual basis then think of how many accidents you have heard of.
Although it is unfair to comment until the official MAIB report is issued, i do believe that legislation (ie; amending the COLREGS to specify a set maximum speed in fog based on % of vessel's maximum speed) should be brought in to give Masters a legal tool to use and slow the vessel down. This would remove the ambiguity behind the 'safe speed' clause as stated in the COLREGS.
One point to not is that, as previously mentioned, an Incat like the Vitesse is able to stop herself from full speed in just over a few times her own length.
The RedJets on the Solent are able to do this in their own length!!
Biffer... I do undrstand your frustration with the Redjets as the wash they produce is of a particular nuissance however vary rarely do they deviate by any great amount during their crossing to/from Cowes. Even at low tide, they draw less than a meter so are able to maintain a similar track on each crossing.
All one needs to do is to take a trip out between the Forts towards Nab to witness the plethora of pots and fishing gear strewn inside the channel
I wont tar all fisherman with the same brush however there are quite a few 'bad apples' out there..
This is a problem no matter what area of the world you are naviguating in.
I would urge people to stop 'armchair quarterbacking', at least until the official report come out.