A report by the MAIB found the skipper of Millennium Diamond was not keeping a proper look out after being distracted by a VHF message
An investigation into a collision at Tower Bridge has found the skipper of a City Cruise vessel was not keeping a proper lookout after being distracted by a VHF message.
The incident, which happened in June last year, saw 10 passengers and crew injured after Millennium Diamond crashed into the London landmark on the River Thames.
One elderly female passenger suffered lacerations from a fall down an external stairwell and five others received minor injuries.
Meanwhile, four catering crew suffered minor injuries when storage equipment moved and stock fell from shelving in the café area.
The vessel had been approaching the bridge just before midday when a VHF broadcast from London VTS informed river users that Tower Pier had been temporarily closed.
The closure happened an hour earlier than previously advertised so the skipper onboard Millennium Diamond replayed the message to confirm the details, while also moving the helm to port.
In the process of listening to the replay, lasting 14 seconds, the skipper became distracted and didn’t notice that the vessel had swung towards Tower Bridge before it was too late.
On realising the vessel was about to hit the bridge, another crew member attempted to warn passengers of the impending impact, however, the PA system had been set to an automated tour guide, so the message was not heard.
An MAIB report said: “The mate used the replay facility on the vessel’s VHF radio to verify the time Tower Pier would be closed. As he reached across to activate the VHF replay switch, he also moved the steering joystick to port, intending to move the vessel towards the south side of the river, away from Tower Pier. The vessel was about 50m from the south pier of the bridge at this time.
“The mate listened to the replay and did not notice that the vessel had veered to port and was heading towards the south pier of Tower Bridge. When he looked up, he realised that the vessel was about to make contact with the bridge.”
Following the crash, a survey of the vessel found the port bow shell plating had been holed above the waterline and was taken out of service for three days while repairs were completed.