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Recall: Riverdance

Recall: Riverdance

On January 31, 2008, the 116 meter long, 3046 dwt ro-ro ferry Riverdance grounded near Cleveleys, Lancashire, England.  The Riverdance had departed from Heysham the previous day after making a quick turn around.  The crossing was slow due to the high winds from the west causing the ferry to arrive late at Warrenpoint.   While the vessel was in Warrenpoint, the master of the Riverdance received a weather report stating conditions would worsen with winds increasing up to gale strength.  The master felt the Riverdance still felt that the vessel could still make the crossing.

Once loading was completed a few hours later, the Riverdance proceeded out of Carlingford Lough with 19 crew and 4 passengers heading for Heysham.   This Riverdance made the crossing quickly with little difficulty, but as it approached Lune Deep the wind had increased to 35 knots making it impossible to enter the harbour at  Heysham.  Thus, the master of the Riverdance decided to drop anchor and wait until conditions improved.

Photo: MAIB

However, the ferry began to roll more increasing from a gentle slow roll to a more rapid increase up to 25 degrees.  Anything loose on board the ferry were thrown around including two trailers which had had slid loosening the lashing.  As the crew began a full inspection of the vehicle decks when the ferry made a more extreme roll to port.  The roll continued over to port, but the vessel failed to right itself and continued to list to port.  Cargo began to shift on the trailers and many trailers shifted until it rested against the bulwarks.  The Master attempted to correct the situation by turning the ferry into the wind, but while making the turn the list increase to 50 degrees.  As the turn was completed, the list began to reduce down to 30 degrees.  As the list improved, the port engine failed.   Leaving only the starboard engine working, the Riverdance could not keep pointed into the wind.   The ferry finally fell off the wind to port with the beam exposed to the wind and swell.

The alarm was raised on the vessel having the passengers and crew sent to their muster stations.   The crew and passengers donned lifejackets  and awaited instructions.   The chief engineer contacted the bridge stating the ballast tanks were inoperable.  The chief officer on deck reported that water had reached the upper edge of the port deck.   The master contacted the vessel’s superintendent to advise him of the emergency on board.   He then contacted the Liverpool coast guard stating the vessel was in trouble and required a tug.   A few minutes later, he contacted the coast guard again declaring a formal distress call and requested a helicopter to evacuate the vessel.

A helicopter was immediately launched and headed to the scene.   As the pilot hovered overhead, all the crew and passengers mustered up on the bridge.   The helicopter winched up the 4 passengers then several non essential crewmen.  Over the next hour, the crew was being safely evacuated   At the same time, the Riverdance steadily drifted towards shore until it grounded in the shallow water.   The rescue effort continued until there were just nine crew left on board.   The crew felt they could remain on board as the vessel was in no risk of sinking and could help prepare the refloating at the next high tide.

The attempt to refloat the Riverdance was postponed on the next high tide as it was decided it would take several days to prepare for the refloating.  A crane was brought to the scene and the remaining 150 tons of fuel was pumped off the vessel.   During this time, several trailers fell off vessel as the Riverdance continued to shift during high tide.   By the end of February, the vessel was ready to be righted then refloated.  However, a severe storm struck the area and salvage attempt had to be delayed again.  A few weeks later, the salvagers started the righting operation.   A trench was dug alongside the vessel and everything was proceeding as plan until another storm battered the area.   The storm caused the Riverdance to further sink into the sand and increase the list to 100 degrees.   A few days later it was determined that salvage was not viable and the vessel was to scrapped onsite.  Work begin in April and continued until October 10, 2008.


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