Irish Ferries' Isle of Innisfree ship adrift after an engine room fire accident in the middle of the English Channel

   March 7, 2023 ,   Accidents

French and British authorities on March 3rd received a report that an Irish Ferries-operated ship in the middle of the English Channel had been adrift after suffering an engine room fire accident.

The 1992-built ferryboat Isle of Innisfree (IMO 8908466/Cyprus-flagged) had a total of 94 passengers and 89 crew aboard for an early evening Channel crossing.

RNLI-Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Prefecture Maritime Manche et Mer du Nord responded to the call which was received at 6:25 pm on March 3rd. The French rescue tugboat Abeille Normandie (Boulogne-sur-Mer) was dispatched on her first ferry rescue since arriving at the station in May last year. RNLI from Dungeness, Dover, and Ramsgate each dispatched a lifeboat to the scene.

The British authorities revealed that they had arrived at the ferry by 7 pm liaising with the captain/crew of the ship. The ferry had experienced an engine room fire which was discovered at ~5:30 pm, according to Irish Ferries. The crew members were able to contain/extinguish the fire with the onboard systems. During the accident, the passengers were assembled at muster stations.

The French authorities announced they were told the ferry had been unable to restart its engines after the fire and started drifting in the English Channel. In an attempt to control the 535-ft-long ship, the Captain lowered the anchors. They were ~9 NM/~10 mi/~17 KM off Port Dover when the RNLI reached the ferryBOAT.

The RNLI, working on an evacuation plan for the ship, determined that the Isle of Innisfree was in no immediate danger. As she was bound for Calais (France), the decision was made that the French tug would tow the ship to port. The tow commenced before midnight and the Isle of Innisfree arrived in Calais (France) on the morning of March 4th. 

Irish Ferries issued a statement apologizing for the accident and lauding the crew members for their actions to extinguish the fire. Travelers booked on the ferry were transferred to other vessels.

An investigation is ongoing into the cause of the accident. Trips aboard the ferry were canceled through March 7th.