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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Ferry impounded over safety fears
MV Fortuny
MV Fortuny must remain in port until new safety checks are passed
A new ferry service which had been due to set sail from Portsmouth to Bilbao has been impounded by UK authorities over safety fears.

The Spanish-owned MV Fortuny, which can carry 1,000 passengers and 300 cars, arrived in port from Spain on Thursday.

But it immediately failed a Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspection, preventing it from setting off again.

The new bi-weekly service had been hailed by port managers after the recent loss of P&O services to France.

We apologise to any passenger that may be inconvenienced by this notice, but we would reiterate that their safety is our first priority
MCA spokesperson

The ferry, built in 2001 and managed and owned by Acciona Trasmediterranea (AT Ferries), must remain in Portsmouth until new safety checks are passed.

European law states that before a ferry enters service from a port for the first time it must be inspected by its host state, said a spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The ferry company must arrange for this to take place but did not in this case.

The MCA spokesperson said the vessel had "simply turned up on our doorstep virtually unannounced", and that MCA surveyors "found various deficiencies".

New inspection

These included a "poorly presented" fire and boat drill, problems with the emergency firefighting equipment and a failure to lodge a search and rescue plan with the MCA.

The operators must also confirm the vessel's stability before it can sail.

The spokesperson added that the MCA had "no choice but to issue a prevention of operation notice preventing this vessel, which does not meet the requirements of the EC Directive, from operating".

"We apologise to any passenger that may be inconvenienced by this notice, but we would reiterate that their safety is our first priority and the MCA will not compromise on such issues."

Once the "detention issues" are rectified, AT Ferries must contact the MCA so it can carry out another inspection.

The MCA said it could not comment on how long this could take.




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