Dutch Safety Board reconstructs Rotterdam collision

The Dutch Safety Board (OVV) has reconstructed the collision between water taxi MSTX 21 (MMSI 244700626) and tour boat Marco Polo during the afternoon of July 21st. The incident occurred in Rotterdam under the Erasmus Bridge. The OVV has found that both a lack of attention and violation of sailing rules characterized the navigation in the minutes prior to the accident.

The water taxi had picked up four passengers at the Hotel New York and dropped off the first two in the Rotterdam ferry port, where three people, a couple with a child, were waiting. They wanted to take the water taxi, but had not made an appointment. After approval from the control centre, the skipper let the three passengers on board. Shortly after the water taxi – with the skipper and five passengers on board – left the ferry port and sailed via the Nieuwe Maas to the Leuvehaven – in a northeasterly direction.

The tour boat Marco Polo was preparing for the third trip on that day and was a little delayed. There were 84 passengers on board when it departed – a bit later than scheduled – from the Spido mooring pontoon – heading north-east onto the Nieuwe Maas.

The water taxi passed an inland vessel port-to-port and approached the Erasmus Bridge. On the port side the driver could still see the Marco Polo, almost motionless.

Just before the water taxi passed under the Erasmus Bridge it passed passenger ship Liza that was departing. That passage was also port-port, which meant that the Liza was sailing exactly between the water taxi and the Marco Polo.

The water taxi could not see that the Marco Polo had now left the quay and in turn was also sailing under the Erasmus Bridge. The OVV has not been able to determine the exact speed of the Marco Polo at the time.

The water taxi wanted to enter the Leuvehaven immediately after passing the Erasmus Bridge. To do this, the skipper made a gentle turn in a northerly direction. The passenger ship Liza was now out of the sightline, meaning that there was a direct line of sight between the water taxi and the Marco Polo. However, the skipper of the water taxi was looking towards the Leuvehaven to see if a ship was coming out of it . Meanwhile the captain of the Marco Polo had not reported the vessel’s departure on the VHF channel, while he should have done.

The water taxi and the tour boat could see each other for 12 seconds. However, the water taxi was located in the blind spot of the tour boat. One of the passengers warned the skipper of the water taxi. It is unclear whether the skipper heard that warning.

The water taxi then suddenly appeared in view of the captain of the Marco Polo. The captain did not expect that, because slow-sailing water taxis should sail on the starboard side.

In this case this would have meant that the water taxi would have had to make the crossing from the ferry port and then cross the waterway again at right angles at the Leuvehaven.

An attempt at an emergency stop was the only option, but it was too late to avoid a collision.

The water taxi capsized and floated upside down in the water. An air bubble ensured that the five passengers and the skipper survived. The water taxi skipper tried to open the sliding door of the water taxi, but could not.

The six occupants were trapped in an air bubble underwater for nine minutes. During that time another water taxi managed to attach a rope and turn the capsized water taxi right side up. The five passengers and the skipper were able to leave the ship alive via the rear. One of the passengers suffered a broken arm, another bruised ribs, but there were no fatalities.

Report with photos and video: