Ferries started to back up on the Solent on Friday afternoon when the former flagship suffered what Wightlink are calling a ‘technical issue’ whilst docked at Fishbourne.
The issue resulted in 60 minute and then 90 minute delays, but by 19:00 the delay had grown to some 5 hours. Thousands of people on both sides of the Solent were affected by the withdrawal of St Clare due to what they believed to be some kind of breakdown.
On Saturday morning a number of customers spoke of their anger at the delays, which are understood to have had a knock on effect to the weekend’s Classic Beer, Buses and Walks Weekend.
It has now been confirmed that the 2001 built St Clare was withdrawn from service on the basis of advice given by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
A spokesperson for the MCA has told Island Echo:
“The MCA is aware that Wightlink stopped their operation of the St Clare on Friday afternoon.
“We understand that a Lloyd’s Register surveyor attended on Saturday to inspect the ship after which she returned to service”.
They went on to say:
“On the basis of the advice provided by the MCA, they [Wightlink] withdrew the ship from service”.
It has been confirmed by Lloyd’s Register that a surveyor did indeed examine St Clare over the weekend. A spokesperson for the organisation has told Island Echo:
“I can confirm that one of our surveyors did attend the vessel in question on Saturday at the request of the ferry company. His attendance was in relation to the completion of both the Class annual and Marpol VI (Air) surveys and endorsement of the certificates as necessary”.
St Clare re-entered service at around 13:00 on Saturday afternoon following a successful inspection at Portsmouth Gunwharf. She travelled across the Solent from Fishbourne under her own power.
It remains unclear when exactly the previous certificate expired and how the expiration date was missed.
Wightlink were approached by Island Echo to provide a statement on the matter on Saturday morning and again on Monday morning, but the information provided this afternoon has failed to address the questions asked.
A spokesperson for Wightlink has referred to a statement similar to one issued on Saturday morning:
“Wightlink apologies for delays to customers on the afternoon of Friday 12 October 2018. This was caused by a technical fault on the 11:00 St Clare sailing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne. The ferry was withdrawn from service until 13:00 on Saturday.
“There were delays on the route of up to two hours. The problem, combined with the aftermath of an accident involving a bus and a car at the Commercial Road roundabout, caused considerable tailbacks in the city for the rest of the day.
“Wightlink is very sorry for causing problems for its customers and the people of Portsmouth”.
When asked to address the issues surrounding certification, the spokesperson said they won’t be releasing any more information.
UPDATE TUESDAY – Wightlink’s Chief Executive, Keith Greenfield, has said confirmed the administrative error:
“We are extremely sorry for the severe disruption caused to our customers on Friday afternoon by this technical issue.
“We acted swiftly when we realised an error had been made and checks are now in place to ensure this does not happen again.”