Safety at issue - Soundings Online

Safety at issue

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APRIL 13 — A senior watch captain on a passenger ferry — charged in connection with the deaths of three sailors whose boat disappeared in the English Channel last August — might have been wearing the wrong glasses, investigators say.

The 61-year-old man, who was the officer on watch when the 580-foot ferry, Pride of Bilbao, is said to have been in the area where the 26-foot Sailfish, Ouzo, disappeared, is slightly shortsighted, according to a news report in England’s Telegraph newspaper. The man was apparently wearing glasses with photochromic lenses (which darken when exposed to UV rays) which “effectively reduced his ability to see small lights by at least 20-percent,” a Marine Accident Investigation Branch report says. The incident occurred around 1 a.m. Aug. 21.

The watch captain first spotted the yacht when it was less than 1,000 feet from the ferry, having noticed a dim white light and a brighter red light, the report says. After a few seconds he reportedly could make out the shape of a yacht to the starboard bow.

The ferry’s second officer altered course, but it was apparently too late, the report says. The watch captain’s glasses, according to investigators, were no more than 80-percent efficient and “probably less at the time of the accident.”

The watch captain was charged in February with three counts of manslaughter through gross negligence. He has been released on bail until his hearing, which is set to begin Oct. 29.

Jason Fell