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The moment Red Falcon crashed into Greylag

The temporary master of the Red Funnel ferry which sunk a yacht and ran aground off East Cowes became ‘cognitively overloaded due to high stress’, an accident report has concluded.

The Maritime Accident Investigation Branch has spent almost 18 months investigating the major incident, which saw the Red Falcon ro-ro ferry almost crash into the Cowes Yacht Haven marina wall and narrowly avoided hitting a family sleeping on a yacht.

At just gone 08:00 on Sunday 21st October 2018, the Red Funnel ferry was navigating in severely reduced visibility in Cowes Harbour. Subsequently, the master lost orientation when the vessel swung out of control, departed the navigable channel and was spun around through 220 degrees. In his confusion, the master drove the ferry in the wrong direction resulting in a collision with the moored yacht ‘Greylag’ which was sunk on its mooring as a result.

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The 4,128 ton ferry – with 48 people on board – then ran aground just 130 metres off of East Cowes esplanade – close enough to the shore that locals could connect to the onboard wifi. This all happened in between 50-200m of visibility.

In their report, the MAIB explains that the Red Falcon’s crew were struggling to maintain the required course resulting in the master taking over the controls from the Chief Officer. The vessel was swinging from starboard to port and by 08:10 had swung 220 degrees from its original heading. It was at this point the decision was made to abort the berthing and head back out of Cowes Harbour and the power was increased – but in the wrong direction. Just a minute later the car ferry crashed into Greylag at a speed of 6.5 knots, causing it to go under the water and immediately sink. The engines were pulled back but the ferry continued towards East Cowes Esplanade, running aground in soft mud around 130m from the shore.

Greylag – split in half – being raised from the sea

Once aground, the master ordered the anchor to be dropped and alerted HM Coastguard. At about the same time the Coastguard received a distress call from the skipper of a nearby yacht and reports of cries for help coming from the fog. In response, lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue Teams and the Cowes Harbour Commission motor launch to search for persons in the water. It was eventually concluded that no one was in the water, but by this time a major incident had been declared.

Later in the day, Red Falcon was manoeuvred to the East Cowes ferry terminal with the aid of a local tug, where all the passengers and vehicles were discharged. It has been confirmed that the crew were breathalysed with negative results.

Crew involved in 3 collisions

It has been confirmed that the helmsman and lookouts on board Red Falcon at the time of this crash were also onboard the ferry when it crashed into the motor cruiser Phoenix on 29th September 2018. Furthermore, the Cheif Officer (C/O), helmsman and lookouts on board Red Falcon during the Greylag collision were also onboard Red Eagle at the time of another accident in the fog on 27th September 2018.

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The C/O returned to work just 2 weeks before the Greylag collision and had little experience of working with the master, who was acting in a temporary role.

Bembridge Coastguard Rescue Team were called to the major incident

Safety Issues

The MAIB has concluded that there were a number of safety issues on the day in question. The master became fixated upon the information displayed on his electronic chart and operating engine controls, ignored information displayed on other electronic equipment and became cognitively overloaded due to high stress.

Furthermore, the bridge team became disengaged from the operation due to a lack of clear communications and emergency scenario training.

It has also been identified that the hazard to people sleeping on yachts in Cowes Harbour had not been sufficiently mitigated within risk assessments.

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has said in a statement:

“Our investigation highlighted how quickly restricted visibility can negatively affect individuals’ awareness and orientation, which increases their stress and impacts on decision making. Crews on vessels of any size can be affected, but the consequences can be mitigated by prior preparation and training, effective teamwork, and a full understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the available instrumentation.

“As a result of our investigation, Red Funnel has introduced measures to address many of the shortcomings identified in the report, but two recommendations have been made to the company aimed at further improving their operational practices.

“It was very fortunate that nobody was on board yacht Greylag when it was struck and overrun by Red Falcon. In this respect, the family on a yacht on a nearby swinging mooring had a lucky escape. When Red Falcon swung around it narrowly missed Cowes Yacht Haven marina wall, and had yachts been rafted there the consequences of this accident could also have been much more severe. Our investigation has highlighted that commercial vessels can pose a danger to people sleeping on yachts in some areas of Cowes Harbour, and recommendations have been made to Cowes Harbour Commissioners and Cowes Yacht Haven to review their risk assessments”.

Red Falcon being towed into the East Cowes berth


Red Funnel has been recommended to conduct regular assessment of ship-handling capabilities including pilotage by instruments alone and to review the shipboard method of determining orientation displayed on the ship’s electronic charting system.

The Cowes Harbour Commission and the Cowes Yacht Haven have been recommended to review their risk assessments for a collision between a commercial vessel and raft of yachts moored at their marinas detailing mitigating measures that are within their control to implement.

The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
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Things will never change while the only way on & off is by ferries. You either keep putting up with their unreliable, expensive service or you donate to the tunnel fixed link viability study… it’s your choice ‍♂️.


A fixed Link would turn the Island into a concrete jungle within twenty years, so stop politicising human error..

We need more trees and green lands, not more people, more people mean more concrete, more concrete means more global warming.

We do not have the infrastructure or roads to take on thousands of extra cars, and remember we only have one hospital…


Why do you think it will suddenly mean there will be an influx of people if there is a fixed link, which more than likely will have a toll payment system? This is a bit narrow minded. People aren’t going to suddenly uproot all their family because there’s a link to the IOW. In general people tend to live where they have family and friends. A fixed link isn’t going to make them suddenly decide to move!


I totally agree with you Jane. Do these people think a fixed link will only be one way to the island. It would also allow many people to get off the island as well you know.


Put your little brain into gear and think!

Joe Blogs



Or a substantial written letter is handed to the MP, containing thousands of signatures from Island people and all companies local and national who rely on ferries etc, until this happens nothing will change. Island residents and companies are being held to ransom, our elected MP needs to be informed in no uncertain terms enough is enough, complaining amongst ourselves achieves nothing. How many people are happy with the transport services to and from the Island? Individuals/companies need to establish a coherent organised campaign, it will take organisation and determination not to say money. If people believe in a properly… Read more »


Well said Kev,, what do you think about a ferry service run and owned by Island residents and businesses, I think it’s possible if our MP pushed for government help.

We could buy the existing ferris and residents could buy shares through their council tax, then we could all have a say on pricing and encourage more visitors to the Island..

Just a thought….


Unfortunately there is too much money involved along with political issues. Oh, and not to mention some rather fat brown envelopes!


It would go bust, especially with idiots like Feeney and his sidekick in control, yawn, why do they have to keep on trying to convince everyone this is what we need?
It’s not quite that way, it’s Feeney and followers who WANT it, purely for selfish reasons too.
Very few voted for him in the election, very few actually support their fixed link vision.
Nothing more to see here, move along.

none given

@kev, The flaw with your plan is that the perceived issues with the cross solent operators has been whinged on about for decades, with a variety of MP’s in place on the island over the period and a variety of different owners of the ferries. Nothing has changed and nothing will. The ferries have been investigated, their practices reviewed, their independence and transparency against each other checked to ensure they do not operate like a cartel over pricing – all three have been exonerated and cleared of any malpractice. They are not holding you to ransom- you could move if… Read more »


Monopoly? I think you need to look the meaning up mate, 3 different companies, with 5 route options.
Not really a monopoly is it?
Another detail wrongly told by the Feeney farce crew, still its what we come to expect from them isn’t it?
Lies and accusations of wrong doing with literally zero evidence.

Paul Davis

Or you could just accept that you live on an island. If you don’t like it and assuming you’re not in one of the prisons, buy a one way ticket!

none given

after four years of bleating – carl feeney and his tunnel friends have only managed to raise £30k of the £130k needed for yet another feasibility study into a tunnel.

With a population of 130,000 it would be a £1 each – clearly there isn’t the groundswell of support that you think there is for a tunnel.


Hi, none given, I think the population is around 141.000 now, and rising….more building equals more people, god knows were all the jobs are coming from..

none given

hi clare

that raises the point – if the island is struggling according to the fixed link fanatics – they why have more moved here.


Its an Island the clue is in the name. You don’t have to put up with poor service, inevitably weather is always going to be an issue, if you cannot accept that part then move off. Weather aside the Ferries/ Hover offers an inadequate service due to breakdown, staff shortages, etc, etc. Those things are not inevitable if the correct management/staff and decent vessels are maintained. People pay an awful lot of money to use these modes of transport and are continually let down. The Ferries/hover continually let their customers down and people deserve better, hence my previous comment. People… Read more »


Was there too much reliance on digital devices ? In those conditions the ‘old’ boats had a man in the bow directing the helmsman.


It is not the fault of the ferry operators if bad weather causes delays or cancellations, maintenance issues are a different topic. Many people moved to the Island (with all its faults) because it is and island, and take the good with the bad because in many respects it is a nicer place to be. If you want a fixed link move to the mainland they have plenty to choose from including France, and let those who want to live like this do so.

Howard morley

I was the guy on the boat next to the sinking yacht that Sunday morning ..Howard Morley boat name Songlines


Thirty years ago I pointed out the IW Council, had the right if it so chose, through a special act of Parliament to license the ferry routes. They could then remove the automatic right of any given company to operate that rout. Who would then be forced to sell or lease its property to the new appointed company. The right to operate the route is the key, not who owns the kit,that can be negotiated.

Funny Face.

We have chosen to live on an Island.
We have to accept the quirky idiosyncrasies this entails.
Celebrate our wonderful life here!

Dicky Daniels

If master wanted to head back out to sea after the near miss with Cowes haven. The ships compass would surely indicate which way was North? South being that big solid Island thing.


With these storms coming over all ferries have been how if you on holiday or coming to see family get back off or on island to get back to work. You can’t. We are stuck here or main land. Not saying there is a solution but this is a disgrace especially at the prices they charge. You can go to France cheaper

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