Earlier this week an email was sent to Island Echo and Hovertravel directly highlighting a series of concerns about the safety and comfort of the new 12000TD craft ‘Solent Flyer’ and ‘Island Flyer’. The email came following an announcement of a 5-day revised timetable on Hovertravel’s service due to the continuing problems with the introduction of the new craft.
Sent on behalf of several regular Hovertravel customers, the email said:
“Why in previous mail from Mr Chapman [Hovertravel’s Managing Director] has he spouted the wonder of these two new craft in gale force conditions, only to find from our experience they are, to say the least, most uncomfortable as they heave, sway, surge, yaw, roll and pitch at an alarming rate in the slightest swell and winds?
“Why has it taken this long for him to acknowledge that all is not rosy with these two craft? They have been taken out of service regularly since their introduction at what can only be described as calm conditions. What about the poor crew in this fiasco? At least we can crawl off at the end of the Alton Towers like crossing, these poor devils have to get back on and go through it again and again. As expected passengers have not been able to contain the contents of their stomachs during some crossings but when you see crew members being violently sick even the seasoned travellers amongst us start to worry!
“The problems with the craft appear to be blindly obvious to us and many of the other passengers. The centre of gravity for these vessels is off beam which allows for exaggerated heave, sway, surge, yaw, roll and pitch. The splits in the skirt at the front allow the skirt to ride over, above and around the deck area which in turn means an exceptionally uncomfortable ride. There are several other issues with these craft but the main concern in this post is to highlight their instability.
“At the end of the day these craft in their present state are dangerous and in our view should not be used in a commercial situation”.
In response to the customer’s concerns, Hovertravel has said:
“Safety of our passengers is paramount to Hovertravel. There is a large number of safety checks and regulatory tests which have to be conducted before any commercial passenger vessel is given a licence to operate. The new craft passed these rigorous tests and have been fully certified by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency with operating licenses provided by Lloyds Register.
“The ride in the 12000TD hovercraft feels different to the previous AP1-88 because it has a slightly higher centre of gravity and a newer skirt design which therefore produces a softer roll and pitch and a harder heave response. Additionally, because the visibility from the larger main cabin windows is improved this creates a different experience for passengers.
“The 12000TD hovercraft is designed, built and certified to fully comply with the rigorous safety standards of the International Maritime Organisation’s High Speed Craft Code which, amongst many other things, includes requirements for the stability of the hovercraft in all the situations and weather conditions they are cleared for. The stability of the craft has therefore been demonstrated to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency both analytically and at sea and found to be acceptable”.