Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report has just been published into catastrophic engine failures on Wightlink-operated Isle of Wight ferries, one resulting in an on board fire that left an engineer seriously injured.

An investigation has been taking place into what happened on board Wight Sky on three occasions, most recently in August and December, 2018.

It found a history of engine failures across the Wight Class fleet, dating back to 2010.

All known failures were looked at, leading to a 'long and detailed' study of five failed engines and their components, a full review of the vessels’ system design and operation, and the safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures.

Bournemouth Echo: The engine after the fire in a photo by the MAIB.The engine after the fire in a photo by the MAIB.

Bournemouth Echo: Wightlink's Lymington to Yarmouth routeWightlink's Lymington to Yarmouth route

What happened on the Wightlink Isle of Wight ferries?

On August 26, 2018, Wight Sky suffered a catastrophic main engine failure as it prepared to enter the Lymington River on its regular crossing from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight.

It was the second catastrophic main engine failure in less than a year.

The failed engine was the replacement for the previous failure that had resulted in an on board fire and serious injuries to an engineer officer.

On December 14, 2018, Wight Sky suffered a third catastrophic engine failure. On this occasion, the failed engine was a new build and had been in operation for just 389 hours.

Following the third engine failure, the entire fleet of Wight Class ferries were withdrawn.

Discussions between Wightlink, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Lloyd’s Register, and the engine manufacturer Volvo Penta allowed for a mitigation plan was put in place, emabling the ferries to return to service.

What were the Wightlink Isle of Wight ferry investigation's findings and recommendations?

Bournemouth Echo: The engine fire on Wight Sky (photo MAIB)The engine fire on Wight Sky (photo MAIB)

In May 2019, the MAIB published an interim report of its initial findings. Now the full details have been published.

Read more: Wightlink engine failures blamed on assembly errors

Investigators found, insufficient technical oversight of the engines’ operating parameters, issued with maintenance management and quality control, design problems and a lack of clear ownership for engine maintenance and engine condition monitoring.

The MAIB recommended Wightlink carry out a technical oversight of maintenance, to ensure issues are identified and escalated to senior management.

It told Volvo Penta AB to identify all affected D16 MH customers and to inform and resolve the  problems with the engines' oil filter bypass.

It asked Lloyds Register to consider introducing new rules and regulations about the time it takes to declutch a propulsion engine from the drive shaft, in the event of an emergency shutdown.

It said this would stop the engine being driven, increasing the risk of serious injury and damage.

The MAIB told RK Marine Ltd to provide its customers with all manufacturers’ safety bulletins applicable to the engines.

Bournemouth Echo: Wightlink's Wight Sky in Lymington in 2020.Wightlink's Wight Sky in Lymington in 2020.

What has the MAIB said?

Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said: “This has been a long and complex investigation.

"Initially focussing on two catastrophic engine failures, the investigation found a history of engine failures across Wightlink’s fleet of Wight Class ferries dating back to 2010.

"Consequently, the scope of the investigation was broadened to include the forensic examination and testing of five failed engines and their components, a full review of the vessels’ propulsion system design and operation.

"We also examined the ferry operator’s safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures, together with the technical oversight provided by the engine manufacturer and its approved service provider.

"MAIB has worked closely with Wightlink, Volvo Penta AB, Lloyds Register and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over the past three years to help ensure that most of the technical issues identified in the investigation report were addressed as soon as practicable.

"The report contains recommendations aimed at improving the reliability of the propulsion machinery on board the Wight Class ferries and reduce the likelihood of future catastrophic engine failures."