A City Cruises pleasure boat which collided with a tug on the Thames, injuring nine tourists, had steering problems, an official investigation has concluded.
The 270-tonne Millennium Time struggled to keep on a steady heading, says the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).
The mate of the vessel, who was helming at the time, did not hold a boatmaster’s licence, while the master of the boat, was providing sightseeing commentary.
The mate believed the Redoubt – towing three barges – was turning towards his own vessel, even though it was Millennium Time that had unexpectedly changed course. The 69-year-old reacted too late to avoid a collision near Waterloo bridge in July last year.
The report said some of the 362 passengers aboard were “undoubtedly shocked and panicked” but the crew were unable to manage the aftermath of the collision and were unsure how many were on board – they thought they were carrying 426.
Those that were injured suffered cuts and bruises.
The MAIB, which made a number of safety recommendations, said City Cruises had replaced the steering systems on Millennium Time and its sister vessels.
City Cruises says it "regrets any incident involving its vessels". The company confirmed it had implemented the safety recommendations.
It pointed out that the Millennium Time had been signed off as safe four months before the incident and the ship underwent daily engineering checks which did not reveal any steering problems. The company also said that the operation and helming of the boat by the mate was "fully, and legally, compliant with safety standards".
A statement added: "The mate was in the process of completing his BML, having completed the theory course and passed City Cruises own internal training programme which is almost identical to the BML examination.
"The law states that a captain of a boat must have a BML (which was the case on the Time) and that someone else can helm the boat as long as the BML holder is on board (which again was the case).
City Cruises MD Kyle Haughton said: “We have been fully behind, and involved in, the production of this report. The safety of our passengers and crew is paramount to us.”