Hovertravel action related to Solent Express incident of 30 October 2011

Mark Lansbury made this Freedom of Information request to Maritime and Coastguard Agency

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Dear Maritime and Coastguard Agency,

I was unable to locate any narrative information at your website around the MCA's recent action against HoverTravel.

Thus this is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I'm interested in the following information:

* Copy of incident report(s) and related information to the 30 Oct 2011 regarding HoverTravel's Solent Express hovercraft.

* All notes, documents and other papers generated which are related to the suspension of all HoverTravel operations (Freedom 90 and Island Express hovercraft).

* All research and inspection reports concerning any propeller(s) used on HoverTravel craft to include data the MCA commissioned and HoverTravel conducted after 01 Oct 2010.

* Copy of MCA's findings concerning HoverTravel's 'Safety Maintenance Systems.'

The above information can be in either electronic (PDF) or standard paper format.

Yours faithfully,
Mark Lansbury

Dear Maritime and Coastguard Agency,

Thank you for your response by post. Also please attach your response to this request (at WhatDoTheyKnow.com).

Yours faithfully,

Mark Lansbury

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

The requestor has informed us the MCA responded directly to him individually despite being asked to respond via the site.

The response has been sent to us to publish here. The covering email states:

"
Good afternoon Mr Lansbury

please see attached letter in response to your request for information relating to Hover Travel

Please confirm receipt of this E Mail and attachment

Regards

Rob Leonard
Regional Business Manager"

A document was attached which has been made available at:

http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...

--

Richard - WhatDoTheyKnow.com volunteer

Dear Maritime and Coastguard Agency,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Maritime and Coastguard Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Hovertravel action related to Solent Express incident of 30 October 2011'.

In your letter it stated:

"Your request for information is refused under Section 30 of the freedom of Information Act, on the grounds that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has not concluded its investigation."

The claim that the MCA has not concluded it's investigation as a basis for refusing this Freedom of Information request does not sound to be reasonable nor in the public interest. Preliminary information should be released.

It should be said that aviation related incidents and subsequent investigations are public information and freely available from most free countries worldwide.

'The Aviation Herald' website (www.avherald.com) is an outstanding example of worldwide commercial aviation incident and accident data. Official government agency reports are freely, and quickly, available to the public without requiring a Freedom of Information Act request.

The information on The Aviation Herald is data collated from various government aviation agencies across the globe. This information is made available incrementally during an accident or incident investigation.

Why would any MCA investigations be withheld when the AAIB, NTSB, Australian TSB, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority and the Russian Interstate Accident Investigation -- to name a few aviation agencies investigating accidents -- which, as policy, incrementally release accident and incident information to the public (many times at their own websites.). Note these agencies release information on private aviation in the same manner as commercial aviation accidents/incidents.

Why, specifically, is a MCA investigation into public transport accidents and incidents kept from the public (e.g. not in the 'public interest') when similar airline investigations are released publicly many times daily, everyday, worldwide?

Your letter continued:

"Consideration has been given to the ‘public Interest test’ in coming to this decision. The information that you have requested has been obtained in confidence in the course of "Investigations and Proceedings conducted by a Public Authority" into a propeller failure onboard one of Hovertravel's hovercraft."

I believe mechanical, procedural and safety items on public transportation are, indeed, in the public interest. Concerning the release of aviation accident information the only information withheld is information of a personal nature such as a pilot leaving a personal message for their spouse just prior to impact.

What transpires on public transport is quite simply, and I would have thought quite obviously, in the public interest.

Personally I have the highest regard for HoverTravel and their operations. What transpired after the Solent Express experienced a propeller/blade failure is what caught my attention. The MCA refusing to release relevant information upon receipt of a Freedom of Information Act request around this incident potentially appears far more serious than the propeller/blade failure itself.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ho...

Yours faithfully,

Mark Lansbury

Rob Leonard, Maritime and Coastguard Agency

1 Attachment

Good afternoon Mr Lansbury

please see attached acknowledgement following your request for the MCA
to internally review the handling of your FOIA request. A paper copy is
in the post to you today.

Regards

Rob Leonard

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subject to the need to keep up to date file records, please consider
your environmental responsibility before printing this email

show quoted sections

January 2012 >>>
Dear Maritime and Coastguard Agency,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Maritime and
Coastguard Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Hovertravel
action
related to Solent Express incident of 30 October 2011'.

In your letter it stated:

"Your request for information is refused under Section 30 of the
freedom of Information Act, on the grounds that the Maritime and
Coastguard Agency has not concluded its investigation."

The claim that the MCA has not concluded it's investigation as a
basis for refusing this Freedom of Information request does not
sound to be reasonable nor in the public interest. Preliminary
information should be released.

It should be said that aviation related incidents and subsequent
investigations are public information and freely available from
most free countries worldwide.

'The Aviation Herald' website (www.avherald.com) is an
outstanding
example of worldwide commercial aviation incident and accident
data. Official government agency reports are freely, and quickly,
available to the public without requiring a Freedom of
Information
Act request.

The information on The Aviation Herald is data collated from
various government aviation agencies across the globe. This
information is made available incrementally during an accident or
incident investigation.

Why would any MCA investigations be withheld when the AAIB, NTSB,
Australian TSB, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority and the Russian
Interstate Accident Investigation -- to name a few aviation
agencies investigating accidents -- which, as policy,
incrementally
release accident and incident information to the public (many
times
at their own websites.). Note these agencies release information
on
private aviation in the same manner as commercial aviation
accidents/incidents.

Why, specifically, is a MCA investigation into public transport
accidents and incidents kept from the public (e.g. not in the
'public interest') when similar airline investigations are
released
publicly many times daily, everyday, worldwide?

Your letter continued:

"Consideration has been given to the ‘public Interest test’
in
coming to this decision. The information that you have requested
has been obtained in confidence in the course of "Investigations
and Proceedings conducted by a Public Authority" into a propeller
failure onboard one of Hovertravel's hovercraft."

I believe mechanical, procedural and safety items on public
transportation are, indeed, in the public interest. Concerning
the
release of aviation accident information the only information
withheld is information of a personal nature such as a pilot
leaving a personal message for their spouse just prior to impact.

What transpires on public transport is quite simply, and I would
have thought quite obviously, in the public interest.

Personally I have the highest regard for HoverTravel and their
operations. What transpired after the Solent Express experienced
a
propeller/blade failure is what caught my attention. The MCA
refusing to release relevant information upon receipt of a
Freedom
of Information Act request around this incident potentially
appears
far more serious than the propeller/blade failure itself.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ho...


Yours faithfully,

Mark Lansbury




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show quoted sections

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

Recieved voice mail from the MCA on a late Friday afternoon (27 Jan 2012) on my mobile. The MCA then left voice mail.

The gentleman leaving the voicemail stated he wanted to 'talk' about my Internal Inquiry regarding this FOI request. He asked to ring him back on his mobile and that he would be in the office Monday (30 Jan) but will be in on Tuesday.

Said he would ring back if he hasn't heard from me.

Received no further phone calls or voice mail from them.

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

The requestor has supplied WhatDoTheyKnow with a copy of further correspondence he has recieved by post which we have uploaded at:

http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...

--

Richard - WhatDoTheyKnow.com volunteer

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

A complaint regarding the handling (denial) of this Freedom of Information request by the MCA has been filed with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Information received from the ICO will be added here as received.

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

The following is an update received from the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding the complaint filed against the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for their decision of this FoI request.

--- start email ---

Subject: Acknowledgment from the Information
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2012 08:57:13 +0100

PROTECT

23 April 2012

Case Reference Number FS50438592

Dear Mr Lansbury
Your Ref: xxxxxxxx

Your information request to Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Thank you for your correspondence in which you make a complaint about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency‘s decision not to release the information you requested.

Your case has been allocated to one of our Complaints Resolution teams who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your complaint will be progressed.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent public body set up to promote public access to official information. We will rule on eligible complaints from people who are unhappy with the way public authorities have handled requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

If you need to contact us about any aspect of your complaint please contact our Freedom of Information Helpline on 0303 123 1113, being sure to quote the reference number at the top of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Sent on behalf of
Alex Ganotis and Jon Manners
Group Managers
Complaints Resolution
Information Commissioner’s Office

--- end email ---
]

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

The Information Commissioner's Office has now started their investigation under their reference number FS50438592.

I shall post the results here when available.

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

This is my reply to the Information Commission's Office.

Dear Ms. Semple,

The email address I'm writing this from is fine for any correspondence.

Should you require, additional contact information is at the end of this email.

> Secondly, it would be helpful if you could provide me with additional information in support of your complaint being specific about which aspects of the handling of the request you are complaining about. I note from the file that as well as a complaint form, you also attached a zip file to your email to the Information Commissioner of 3 March which I have been unable to open/access.

I've attached the three files that were in the zip file. The .doc file is from the MCA. The .pdf file is the history of this FOI request and MCA internal review request. This same information can be located online directly at the 'What Do They Know' website by clicking on this link.

I believe my letter requesting an internal FOI review from the MCA should have the details you require. That letter is included in the attached .pdf file (dated 12 January 2012) or directly online at this link.

Please note that I have no connection with HoverTravel or the MCA other than I use HoverTravel for transport along with Wightlink's foot passenger ferry service.

My background is as an airline pilot with approximately 10,000 hours flight time. I became interested in this event only after the MCA delayed nearly 3 weeks before grounding the remaining two hovercraft, thus ceasing all HoverTravel services.

The 2 grounded hovercraft are of a completely different model from the one with the propeller failure. The model with the prop failure does not use any parts which the smaller model hovercraft use although, of course, some parts are similar. For example they all use propellers. However the model with the failed propeller is a variable pitch prop while the 2 other craft use a fixed pitch prop -- a very different type of propeller system.

To summarise my reasons for challenging the MCA's FOI denial:

Information regarding safety of public transport is, in fact, in the public interest. The MCA state this information is not in the public interest and claim "The public interest is being served in that the vessel concerned has been taken out of service ..." The MCA is clearly ignoring 'public interest' as it relates to information regarding the accident/incident. Clearly it's also in the 'public interest' to ground the hovercraft if done so for safety reasons.

Government aviation safety authorities worldwide routinely publicly release information regarding accidents and incidents from the initial investigation continually until the final accident investigation report is made. I'm rather stunned and embarrassed my country's Maritime and Coastguard agency refuses to release such preliminary information even after receiving a FOI request. An excellent example of this information being made publicly available in the public interest can be seen here:

The Aviation Herald (international)
http://avherald.com/

Air Accidents Investigation Branch (UK)
http://www.aaib.gov.uk/publications/inde...

Australian Transport Safety Bureau:
Aviation investigations:
http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/safe...
Marine investigations:
http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/safe...

NTSB (USA):
Current investigations:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/curre...
Accident reports:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...

Or browse accidents by category:

Aviation accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...
Hazardous Materials accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...
Highway accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...
Marine accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...
Pipeline accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...
Rail accidents:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/repor...

MAK (Russia). Reports are mostly released in Russian, of course. However they also release English reports on select accidents:
http://www.mak.ru/english/english.html
(Note: The Aviation Herald translates the reports from other languages into English.)

The grounding/shutdown of the Hovertravel fleet comes just short of THREE WEEKS after the problem on the Solent Express (the new hovercraft). Nearly three weeks is, I believe, an excessive amount of time to make a safety decision to shut down the operation of the other two hovercrafts which are different models from the one with the failed propeller. Why so long considering:

Diagnostic tests and analysis which could determine any possible problem(s) with the other two hovercrafts (both different models from Solent Express) and could have been completed some time ago.

The props used on the Solent Express (accident hovercraft) are different from those used on the other two craft.

The props on the other two craft could have been easily been checked for fatigue and cracks overnight.

The aerodynamics (forces exerted) of each model of hovercraft will differ based on prop dimensions, torque, engine, cowling differences and so forth.

The timing and method of the MCA's press release is, to be generous, odd.

The result of the MCA's actions allowed a BBC news crew to arrive at the HoverTravel Southsea terminal before HoverTravel management could telephone the Southsea terminal staff and inform them of the MCA's order to shut down HoverTravel. Thus, BBC news was asking HoverTravel staff about the MCA's actions well before the Southsea terminal staff could be informed by HoverTravel management of the MCA's order to cease all HoverTravel operations.

The MCA's priority of informing the BBC in such a way that allowed a news crew to arrive at a place of business before front line staff can be informed is, at best, dodgy. If the MCA's true intent was safety, their primary efforts should be ensuring the proper shutdown of an operation rather than press releases and 'tipping off' the media.

Informing the media prior to determining HoverTravel operations had ceased combined with the MCA's nearly 3 week delay in taking this action indicates the more serious problems may very well reside within the MCA rather than HoverTravel's operations.

Please let me know if I can provide any further information.

Best regards,
Mark Lansbury

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

This morning I've received an update via email from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The ICO investigating officer advised they have now received a copy of the information withheld by the MCA in addition to details surrounding the handling of my FOI request and the MCA's handling of my appeal and their denial to release any information.

The ICO advised it will take several weeks to review the material received.

I shall post the results of the ICO's decision here once it's received.

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

Below is a follow-up email to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Dear Ms. Semple,

I'm writing to follow-up on this request as the one year anniversary for the initial FOI request with the MCA on 14 December is rapidly approaching.

Additionally, the MCA has -- for reasons known only to them -- kept one of the hovercraft grounded (Solent Express) for well in excess of a year. This has left us here on the Isle of Wight, and Hovertravel, without a backup hovercraft to cover for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. This has caused transport difficulties on a number of occasions.

It seems quite unreasonable to keep an expensive asset out of service for such a lengthy period of time. While I can't say with 100% accuracy, I suspect it did not take in excess of a year to initially build the Solent Express. Surely it's reasonable to expect the MCA to have fully investigated, provided recommendations and released this craft into service long before now.

In the last two years the Airbus A380 series had two serious issues[1] [2] both of which were resolved to a level of safety allowing this model Airbus to continue operating. In light of this, it is unreasonable, and in fact highly questionable, that the MCA continues to keep Hovertravel's Solent Express out of service for such an excessive period of time. After more than a year of such questionable behaviour on behalf of the MCA I believe the travelling public is deserving of an answer.

Is there any additional information or assistance into this review that I may provide?

Best regards,
Mark Lansbury

References:
[1] Qantas A388 - Uncontained engine failure (04 Nov 2010) http://avherald.com/h?article=43309c6d&a...
[2] Airbus A380 Wing Cracks - EASA Airworthiness Directive 2012-0013 (08 Feb 2012) http://avherald.com/h?article=44992a89&a...

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

Today received the following response from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) Senior Case Officer who was working this complaint. Here is the full text of the email:

--- start ---

Dear Mr Lansbury

I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving the ICO today. I had hoped that your case would have been completed before I had left but unfortunately the case remains with the signatory.

If you have any queries the point of contact for the case is jon.manners ico .gsi .gov .uk.

Kind regards

Liz Semple
Senior Case Officer

--- end ---

I have emailed a copy to the new point of contact today which is as follows:

--- Start email to new ICO point of contact ---

Dear Mr. Manners,

Below please find a copy of my email to Ms. Liz Semple of 27 November 2012 inquiring on the status of this complaint (ICO reference FS50438592).

Would you be so kind as to provide a status update on this case.

Best regards,
Mark Lansbury
(contact information at end of this email)

--- Start copy of 27 Nov 2012 email to Ms. Liz Semple ---

On 02/08/12 09:32, casework ico .gsi .gov .uk wrote:

> I am writing to let you know that I have now received a copy of the withheld information from MCA as well as details about its handling of your request.
>
> Although I have not reviewed the information in detail as yet, it looks likely that a decision notice will be required.
>
> I will contact you again when I have completed my review which should hopefully be in the next few weeks.

Dear Ms. Semple,

I'm writing to follow-up on this request as the one year anniversary for the initial FOI request with the MCA on 14 December is rapidly approaching.

Additionally, the MCA has -- for reasons known only to them -- kept one of the hovercraft grounded (Solent Express) for well in excess of a year. This has left us here on the Isle of Wight, and Hovertravel, without a backup hovercraft to cover for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. This has caused transport difficulties on a number of occasions.

It seems quite unreasonable to keep an expensive asset out of service for such a lengthy period of time. While I can't say with 100% accuracy, I suspect it did not take in excess of a year to initially build the Solent Express. Surely it's reasonable to expect the MCA to have fully investigated, provided recommendations and released this craft into service long before now.

In the last two years the Airbus A380 series had two serious issues[1] [2] both of which were resolved to a level of safety allowing this model Airbus to continue operating. In light of this, it is unreasonable, and in fact highly questionable, that the MCA continues to keep Hovertravel's Solent Express out of service for such an excessive period of time. After more than a year of such questionable behaviour on behalf of the MCA I believe the travelling public is deserving of an answer.

Is there any additional information or assistance into this review that I may provide?

Best regards,

Mark Lansbury

References:
[1] Qantas A388 - Uncontained engine failure (04 Nov 2010)
[2] Airbus A380 Wing Cracks - EASA Airworthiness Directive 2012-0013 (08 Feb 2012)

--- End copy of 27 Nov 2012 email to Ms. Liz Semple ---

--- Start email to new ICO point of contact ---

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

Today received a response from the ICO regarding a decision notice on this case:

--- start ICO email ---

Dear Mr Lansbury,

I have spoken to the signatory, and I can update you that the decision notice will be issued by the end of next week at the latest.

Regards,
Jon Manners
Group Manager
Complaints Resolution (Group 2)
Information Commissioner's Office

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

The following arrived via email on 07 Dec 2012 from the ICO upholding the MCA's denial of this FoI request.

Note: The Senior Case Officer, Liz Semple, had left employment with the ICO (made redundant?) prior to the date of this letter which was 06 Dec 2012.

I shall be filing an appeal with the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights).

The PDF file mentioned, below, will be uploaded by the admin of the WhatDoTheyKnow website soon.

Mark Lansbury
Isle of Wight

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2012 11:30:06 +0000
From: ICO Decision Notice
To: Mark Lansbury
CC: casework ,Jon Manners

Dear Mr Lansbury

Please find attached an electronic version of the decision notice dated 6 December 2012. I have copied below the covering letter:

6 December 2012

Dear Mr Lansbury

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Maritime and Coastguard Agency FS50438592

Please find enclosed a decision notice relating to your complaint about a request for information that you submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Your complaint has been considered by the Commissioner and the decision notice sets out the reasons for the decision. If you disagree with the decision notice, you have the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights).

The Commissioner will publish this decision on the ICO website, but will remove all names and addresses of complainants. If the public authority also chooses to reproduce this decision notice, then the Commissioner expects similar steps to be taken.

I hope the above information is helpful.

Yours sincerely
Liz Semple
Senior Case Officer

david schiller left an annotation ()

Hi Mr Lansbury, I haven't grasped the nitty gritty of the troubles you seem to be having with the ICO- but-
I've had a Case (on wdtk) which has reached the stage where a 'Decision Notice' has been issued in strange circumstances. Liz Semple was dealing with the case and without warning I got an email from her saying she was leaving the ICO 'today' and another Case Officer was appointed, That led to the Decision Notice quite clearly without any proper enquiry. I also had a Case a few years back involving the DoJ/ Foreign Office who refused to supply requested Information until instructed to do so by Baroness Ashton, in her capacity as Lord President of HM Privy Council . It's a long story but it appears that Jon Manners shredded some of the documents (said to be a bundle 12” thick) that had been provided, whilst the Case was 'live' Strange behaviour by those entrusted to implement Freedom of Information. Any interest to you? Or any comment

Mark Lansbury left an annotation ()

At the suggestion of the good people at WhatDoTheyKnow, I've submitted another request. The current request can be found at:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/h...