HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 c782W
Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what remedial action has been taken following his assessment of the Marine Safety Agency's report on the QE II incident last December. [3608]

Mr. Norris

A report on the QE II incident has been completed by the director of operations and seafarers standards of the Marine Safety Agency. The director's report discloses serious deficiencies in the shore and ship management of the vessel by Cunard; it also identifies failings on the part of the Marine Safety Agency.

On the instructions of the agency's chief executive the following action is being taken with Cunard;

  1. (a) the agency is holding discussions with Cunard's ship and shore management both to ensure that systems are in place to avoid any recurrence of the problems experienced last December and to work towards early certification under the international safety management code;
  2. (b) for the time being agency surveyors will continue a programme of inspections of the QE II.

In addition, following the director's report, the agency's chief executive has instituted more stringent procedures governing the certification of passenger vessels; these will lead to much tighter control over the continuance in service of vessels on which refit work is in progress. The main changes are as follows:

  1. (1) the agency's surveyors have been instructed not to issue a certificate which is subject to conditions until they are satisfied that adequate steps have been taken by the ship's management and crew to apply and to enforce the conditions for the period during which they apply;
  2. (2) if a certificate is issued subject to special conditions, these conditions will be set down in writing and attached to the certificate, and they will be reinforced by written confirmation from the district chief surveyor to the owner or operator;
  3. (3) any special conditions, or an appropriate summary of them, will be displayed alongside the passenger certificate in a public area of the ship;
  4. (4) the agency's surveyors have been instructed that they should issue a full passenger certificate only after the completion of work needed to comply with the certificate, except in minor matters, where the surveyor may issue a certificate if he is satisfied that the work will be completed before the ship sails.

Appropriate action has been taken in respect of the agency officials involved.

The chief executive has also stressed to surveyors the importance of maintaining a close but objective working relationship with shipowners. All the agency's staff have been reminded of the agency rules on the acceptance of hospitality.

The full details of the incident are set out in the MSA director's report, which has been placed in the Library of the House.