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B1/1998M Passenger Hydrofoil LAURA, Two Groundings off Helsinki May 27 1995 and June 4 1998

Grounding in the Särkkä Sound May 27th 1995

The Estonian flagged passenger hydrofoil M/S LAURA grounded off Helsinki at 07.45 May 27th 1995. The vessel was on her way from Helsinki to Tallinn with a nearly maximum number of 192 passengers, a crew of 16 and a Finnish pilot onboard. The accident occurred in dense fog with a visibility of only 20 to 30 m.

LAURA departed from Helsinki towards Tallinn at 07.30 in the morning. From the departure to the grounding there were four persons in the cockpit of the vessel, master, first mate, chief engineer and pilot. The vessel was steered by the master himself at a speed of about 6 knots. The vessel drifted inadvertedly towards the port edge of the fairway. An evasive manoeuvre of a buoy towards the centre of the fairway ended in a grounding on a shoal off the opposite, starboard, edge of the fairway. The vessel stopped on the shoal. The pilot did not intervene (participate) in the steering in any way.

Two boats from the Coast Guard as well as a boat from each of the customs, police and pilot station had arrived to the scene at 07.55. The passengers were evacuated with four of the boats and the evacuation was successfully carried out at 08.20. There were no personal injuries or fatalities in the accident.

The main cause of the accident was an error in navigation and steering due to the fog with practically nil visibility. The lay-out of the vessel cockpit was a significant contributing factor to the accident. Due to this layout no one else in the cockpit except the master could monitor the development of the situation from the radars with sufficient accuracy.

Grounding at Itäkari shoal 4 June 1998

The hydrofoil M/S LAURA departed from the southern harbour at Helsinki at 10.00 on 4 June 1998 and grounded on Itäkari shoal, located between Suomenlinna Island and the Harmaja lighthouse, at 10.18. At the time of the accident the vessel was underway from Helsinki to Tallinn with an almost maximum number of passengers, 199, and a crew of 12 persons. There was no pilot on board as the master had a pilot’s licence. The accident occurred in heavy fog, with a visibility of only about 150 m. The pilot began to lift the vessel on its hydrofoil wings after the Särkänsalmi strait, turning the vessel too early about thirty degrees to starboard. This brought the turn farther to the south than had been projected. The turn to the south-easterly course was delayed, and as a consequence also the turn south at Länsikari shoal continued over the channel. The vessel drifted to the Itäkari shoal, where it grounded.

A Coast Guard vessel was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, at 10.30. The evacuation began at 10.45 and it was completed by 11.25. The accident did not result in any personal injuries.

The main cause of the accident was the affect of the poor visibility on navigation and the erroneously prepared course, which had not taken into consideration the effect of a full load on the steering of the vessel.

B1/1998M Report (pdf, 1.09 Mt)

B1/1998M Report (pdf, 0.66 Mt)

Published 13.5.1998