Gangway collapse serves as reminder to seasonal seafarers

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Gangway collapse serves as reminder to seasonal seafarers

29th November 2011

A travel claims expert has reminded holidaymakers to exercise caution when boarding ships, after two people were injured when a gangway leading to HMS Belfast on the River Thames collapsed.

Katherine Allen, head of the Travel and International Litigation department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: “This latest onboard incident is a timely reminder of the injuries and illnesses that can befall any seasonal seafarers planning their Christmas getaways.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that an investigation is underway and the former warship - which is permanently docked on the Thames as a tourist attraction - will remain closed until further notice. Two contractors suffered minor injuries in the lunchtime incident on Tuesday. They were taken to St Thomas’ Hospital in South London, and the 175 people who were aboard the vessel at the time - including 90 tourists - were evacuated by boat.

“It is important that lessons can be learned from incidents such as this so that general safety can be improved to avoid similar incidents in the future,” said Katherine, a partner with the firm.

It was later revealed that 30 schoolchildren were staying on board the ship at the time of the incident, as part of an experience called Kip on a Ship. “A collapsed publicly accessible gangway is always going to be a serious issue,” said Katherine, “but it’s only fortunate an elevated walkway such as this didn’t collapse whilst carrying a number of members of the public. If that had happened, with people plunging into the waters below, the outcome could obviously have had tragic consequences.”

Katherine said the incident should be used to remind anyone planning Christmas cruises that while seaborne trips are often a wonderful experience, passengers do need to take extra care.

“It’s always a good idea to be aware of any pitfalls that could potentially ruin someone’s holiday,” she said. “Major problems are rare, but in cold conditions it’s not uncommon for passengers to slip or trip while on deck, and of course there are a number of illness outbreaks –including food poisoning and the so-called ‘winter-vomiting bug’ Norovirus – that passengers need to watch out for. If you think you might be suffering from an illness related to your food and/or conditions on board the ship, you should speak to the on-board doctor immediately.

"Cruise ship operators are responsible for the safety of their guests and also to ensure that all necessary safety precautions are in place on their vessels,” said Katherine. “Incidents like this one show that even with the best plans in place, accidents can – and do – happen. Whilst we hope any Christmas cruisers have a fantastic, problem-free break, it’s important they are aware of the need for extra care.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to aviation accidents and accidents and illnesses at sea. If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more: BBC