Coronavirus has had a huge impact upon the way in which we operate, leading to significant changes in the way we transport freight. This may be due to change again with the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) announcing that it may be permissible for drivers to stay in their vehicles whilst on ferries if they have exceptional circumstances.
This statement was made in a bid to help protect frontline services by maintaining the movement of freight.
In order for the MCA to approve this change, operators must prove that they have undertaken rigorous risk assessments to ensure the safety of those involved. Providing that mitigation measures have been implemented; freight drivers may be allowed to remain in their vehicles whilst on RoRo ferries.
The Director of Maritime Safety and Standards and the UK’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation, Katy Ware stated:
"It’s important in this current situation to do all we can to protect ship’s crew and those travelling on vessels from the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). We have taken the decision to temporarily relax a number of maritime safety regulations, including allowing freight drivers to stay with their vehicles on the vehicle decks of all roll on/roll off (RO-RO) vessels ships and car passengers can do the same on domestic passenger vessels.
This will enable freight to keep moving and life-line passenger vessels to keep operating. All operators of passenger ferries will be expected to submit risk mitigation to us before they will be allowed to let passengers stay in their vehicles.
Safety and welfare is always our primary concern but we are a reasonable regulator and we are living in unprecedented times. If operators can show us that they’ve got the right measures in place to keep everyone safe, then we will allow them to do this.
We implemented this last week with the Isle of Wight Operators (Red Funnel and Wightlink). This will now be rolled out nationally at the request of individual operators. All our Marine Office teams have been briefed and the matter is now being dealt with nationwide by them."
Ferry operators (and more importantly Ship Masters) will need to decide whether they deem it safe to make this change on their ferry routes. Things to consider include
It may be that operators will only allow drivers to stay in vehicles on open decks or decks with access to the outside.