Letter: Why are Wightlink forcing passengers on car ferries to mingle closely with others? (updated)

This reader believes the MCA has a duty of care, not just for the ferry crews, but also for passengers on board those ferries and wants to know why Covid-19 vulnerable passengers are being forced to leave their cars

wightlink st cecilia

OnTheWight always welcomes a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below.

This from Ron Fullman shares a copy of a letter sent to the MCA last weekend.

A copy of the response from the MCA can be found at the bottom of Ron’s letter. Ed

To: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

I am writing to you as you seem to control what Isle of Wight ferries are allowed to do; they have to follow your instructions, I understand.

If this is correct I wish to make it clear that in that case you also have a duty of care for not just the crew, but also for passengers on board those ferries.

Forcing passengers to mingle closely with others
In these unusual times it seems madness that you have from Monday 13 July 2020, instructed Wightlink not to allow passengers to stay in their vehicles during the 40 minute crossing, but to force passengers, many of them elderly and who rely on the lifts, to mingle closely with other passengers, many of whom will come from the mainland therefore risking bringing new cases of Covid 19 to the Island.

Staying in vehicles was allowed up to 2012 so were you wrong for all the years before that?

Reintroduced for lockdown
After the recent Coronavirus lockdown it was reintroduced on certain ferry crossings so that passengers and crew were able to self-isolate for the 40 minute crossing should they choose to do so in order to follow Government advice.

Why then have you gone from one extreme to another? Just one ferry crossing a day would suffice.

Passengers should have a right to choose
Passengers have a right to a choice surely when their own health, and that of the crew, are at risk. You do not have the right to deny passengers that choice.

We are captive on the Island and have only the ferries to take us to the mainland with our car. Like myself and my wife, most of the Islanders are in the danger bracket for Covid 19 and therefore should be entitled to have a choice.

Seriously reconsider your decision
I would urge you to reconsider this decision seriously in the interest of Islanders and visitors to our Island. It is too soon to make such a drastic decision.

As a reminder I have copied part of your own instructions(MIN 616 -M&F Amendment 3) below.

1.3 It is recommended that companies include measures for tackling risks posed by COVID-19 as part of their operational procedures for ships.
1.4 In addition, under the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997, employers and shipowners have a duty to ensure the health and safety of seafarers and other affected by their undertaking and to put in place measures to reduce risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
1.5 While social distancing is fundamentally a public health measure introduced to reduce the spread of infection, it is also relevant to controlling risks within the workplace.
1.6 Shipowners and employers should ensure that seafarers are able, where possible, to follow the current Public Health England guidelines on social distancing (including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others) and hygiene (washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds).

Response from MCA – 14th July 2020:

As you mention there is a requirement for passengers to vacate their car and car deck during crossings. During the COVID 19 crisis based on a risk assessment we agreed that a number of operators could temporarily suspend this requirement to support lifeline services to the island, Wightlink being one of these. Wightlink have made the decision based on their risk assessment that now is the time to revert on this decision and that with other items in place they can meet social distancing guidelines. For clarity no decision has been made on this topic to change this policy on or around the 13th July with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA); and they would not need to ask our permission because they are returning to the regulatory requirement.

The MCA is the regulator for the Isle of Wight passengers ferries (such as the passenger certification) including Wightlink however this does not cover the social distancing policies which are looked after by Public Health.

I understand that Wightlink do ask that If you have a specific medical condition and persons would like to remain in your vehicle that you would need to inform them at least 48 hours before you intend to travel and that they will try and accommodate your request. This can be found on their website under the FAQ section

10am 14th July – Response from MCA added and headline amended from MCA to Wightlink

Image: elsie under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 13th July, 2020 2:33pm


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2nNs

Filed under: Ferry, Island-wide, Letter to the Editor

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8 Comments on "Letter: Why are Wightlink forcing passengers on car ferries to mingle closely with others? (updated)"

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Hear, hear! The stairwells will end up being a cesspool of viruses, as well as the handrails, let alone the passenger lounge. Red Funnel needs to change their policy as well. Those of us who are extremely vulnerable aren’t amused with this new King’s College London study about how immunity might be short-lived; we could end up having more people are-infected and contagious than originally thought. Everyone,… Read more »

It’s not difficult to understand, with Coronavirus still around, then the safest place to be for a short ferry crossing is in your own bubble, or car, not swanning about a ships decks, stairwells etc etc


It’s all about money, and not safety. If passengers are in their cars, then the ferry companies need more crew members to cover H&S, also, the will want to make money by selling food, drink and merchandises which they can’t do if you stay in your vehicle.

The MCA also say that there should be a seat for all passengers on the crossing, so why are there always photos on social media of the ferries so packed, that people are sat on the floors, in walkways etc?? That’s definitely a safety issue. You are correct tony, it’s all about the ferries making money, which they make more than enough on the ridiculous fares, without… Read more »
Better Red than Bled
If you are very vulnerable the safest place for you is at home. If you feel being in a car on a deck surrounded by freight and other vehicles of which are exempted from MOT and you have no idea when it was last checked, 4 or 5 flights of stairs from a life jacket, evacuation chutes and crew trained to keep you safe, is safer than… Read more »
It is very difficult for people who are most at risk from complications of Covid but those seem to me to be good reasons for not remaining in your car and are presumably why it is not allowed by the MCA. The better thing to do probably is to limit the number of vehicles/people on each ferry so that they can stay apart more easily. Personally, as… Read more »

The safest place is at home. So stay at home.

As for ferries, how many people have died on ferries due to freight and MOT exempt vehicles, and how many people have died by becoming infected by coronavirus?

Better Red than Bled

People don’t die on ferries because they are not on the decks when incidents happen.