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#MCIB - The families of two fishermen found dead at sea off the Skerries last April may never uncover the circumstances that led to their demise. But the official report into the incident indicated that the absence of lifejackets was a significant contributing factor.

Ronan Browne (26) and David Gilsenan (41) were reported missing on the evening of 1 April after failing to return from a trip tending to lobster pots.

Their vessel, Lady Linda, was found the following morning upturned in an oil slick off Clogherhead with no sign of the crew.

It wasn't until a week later that their bodies were discovered caught in the vessel's fishing gear some five miles east of Clogherhead, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Post-mortem results found that both men died from drowning, with Gilsenan also showing signs of hypothermia.

With no eyewitnesses to the incident, the report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) indicated a number of possible causes from eqiupment malfunction or shifting of lobster pots on deck, to the wave height and weather conditions on the day, which were reportedly deteriorating when the boat left port.

It also said that Browne and Gilsenan "were lifelong friends, both men were experienced and qualified marine engineers in the fishing vessel industry. Both men were experienced in boat handling and fishing and had worked together on many occasions."

But the report emphasised the lack of personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board, and noted that emergency equipment was stored under the deck and not easily accessible.

The MCIB's recommendations include a review of the code of practice for fishing vessels under 15m to establish "revised stability critera" and ensuring that all boats are fitted with automatic radio beacons that deploy upon capsize.

In a separate incident, lack of proper maintenance led to an unlicenced boat taking on water off Co Kerry last August.

The Claire Buoyant was carrying one crew, five passengers and 21 sheep from Beginish Island to Ventry when the vessel began to lose stability.

Skipper Eoin Firtear - who the MCIB described as having "limited sea-going experience" - and his five passengers were rescued by passenger ferry. All sheep were jettisoned overboard, with 18 eventually recovered.

The report reminded that the carriage of livestock should only be undertaken in appropriately certified vessels.

Published in MCIB

Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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