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EuroTest has just launched the results of a survey of 18 passenger ferries connecting 36 European and North African cities. Overall, the ferries met all safety requirements, but rarely were passengers clearly informed about on-board safety instructions. The safety facilities on each ferry were rated on a series of criteria to be “very good”, “good”, “acceptable”, “poor” or “very poor”. Of the ferries analysed, seven achieved the rating of very good, with another seven achieving a good rating. The remaining passenger ferries were classified as average. One test was not able to be completed and therefore that ferry was not rated.

The majority of the ships inspected met all safety requirements and were of a high technical standard. Despite tight schedules and, at times, too few personnel, the EuroTest inspectors were able to inspect engine rooms, car decks, cargo areas and bridges.

Fewer and fewer shipping companies keep lifejackets in the cabins; according to the crew, this is due to the fear of theft and indicates a dangerous trend as passengers cannot access lifejackets easily. Another extremely risky practice in order to save time on many ferries is to open bow/ stern doors and loading ramps long before arriving at the pier. Although all of the ships inspected had escape routes, they were not always fully fitted with directional arrows and LED lights. You-are-here-plans were often difficult to read and did not contain any safety information or rescue equipment.

Additionally, it was only in exceptional cases that passengers were well-informed about the safety equipment on board and the safety instructions in case of emergency. Only four of the ships inspected had safety videos clearly shown in the passenger area. There were hardly any PA announcements regarding safety.

Ferry accidents make it clear that good safety management and modern technical equipment are essential. However, the most advanced equipment is no good if it is not serviced properly and ready for use, or if the crew is unable to use it. What’s more, passengers need safety information about the ship. They need to feel safe on board and know what to do in an emergency.

Register the name, age and sex of each individual passenger when selling tickets
Embark pedestrians via safe, separate walkways or ramps separated from traffic
Barrier-free access for people with disabilities to all passenger areas on board and to the evacuation deck. Ensure that luggage is safely stored on passenger decks
Provide safety information attached to the tickets. Provide safety instructions for passengers in audio, visual and printed form; this information should be provided in the native language at least and also in English. Announce videos in advance
HGVs, trailers and coaches must always be tightly secured with more than two chains, cars and motorbikes, depending on the weather forecast, should be correctly secured with belts
Provide live demonstrations on how to use lifejackets
Escape routes and safety facilities should be clearly marked and should not be obstructed
Technical safety equipment should be serviced correctly and regularly
Rescue equipment should be regularly checked and defects eliminated immediatly, for instance, replace whistles and distress lights on lifejackets and lifebelts
Cabinets and boxes where lifejackets are stored must be freely accessible at any time and should not be locked for fear of theft
Lessen the workload for crew by employing more staff; employ more staff at the reception desk and in the passenger area to assist passengers
Train the crew to be aware of their responsibility towards passengers
Regularly check the passenger and car decks during the crossing
Hold regular safety drills for the crew under real conditions
Step up security checks at the port and on board ships in order to prevent terrorist attacks (according to the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code = ISPS code)