Bellriva - Rhinau english summary

On the 26 May 2007, at about 08.30, a passenger vessel the Bellriva flying the German flag and cruising on the Rhine a navigable waterway with international status, and which was carrying 174 passengers and 34 crew members, hit the cill below the upper gate of the small chamber of the Rhinau lock in French territory (Bas Rhin).

The accident caused 22 injuries among the passengers of which twelve were evacuated to hospitals in Strasbourg and Sélestat.
The vessel was badly damaged and to a lesser extent so was the lock which was out of action for several days, in order for provisional repairs to be made.
The vessel was able to get to a yard in Cologne for repairs to be made.

From an analysis of the facts, and listening to witness statements it would seem that :
- the direct cause of the accident was the fact that the skipper did not understand how to use the controls and had not correctly transferred these controls onto the secondary control panel and therefore found himself at secondary control panel with equipment which did not work
- the absence of any checks by the ship-owner to see whether the newly recruited skipper had sufficient knowledge of the vessel was also a contributory cause of the accident

Two other factors might have contributed to this accident :
- the poor design and layout of the cockpit
- the absence of any organisation of feedback on accidents that occur on navigable international waterways, such as the Rhine, which does not lead to similar accidents being learned from.

Four recommendations were made following the analysis of the causes of the accident and associated factors in order to prevent similar accidents happening again. They concerned :
- knowledge of a vessel and its controls by the skipper (two recommendations)
- the recording of action taken by the crew and navigational constraints
- feedback on accidents and incidents when sailing on the Rhine
Depending on their type these recommendations were addressed to the DGITM (Central department in charge of waterways), to the VNF, managers of navigable waterways infrastructure, to the ship-owners professional association (CAF) or their European counterparts (UENF).

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