The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its investigation report into an incident wherein a fishing vessel ran aground in the Shetland Islands on August 4, 2019.
At about 01:24 on the said date, the Spanish-owned UK-registered longline fishing vessel Coelleira grounded on Ve Skerries, a low-lying reef off the west coast of the Shetland Islands while on passage to land its catch in Scrabster, Scotland. The vessel then immediately listed to port and its 15 crew were evacuated by a coastguard rescue helicopter.
Attempts to salvage Coelleira were unsuccessful and the vessel broke up and sank. There were no injuries and, although the vessel was carrying about 15 tonnes of diesel oil, there was no significant pollution.
- The passage from the fishing grounds to Scrabster was not properly planned and the vessel’s position was not being closely monitored.
- An effective lookout was not maintained, and the bridge was unmanned at the time of the grounding.
- The judgment and performance of the master, who was on watch at the time of the grounding, might have been adversely affected by fatigue.
- The performance and set-up of electronic navigation equipment available in the wheelhouse adversely affected the master’s ability to monitor the vessel’s position and identify navigational hazards.
A recommendation has been made to Blue Pesca, Coelleira‘s owner, aimed at improving watchkeeping practices and enhancing the safety on any vessel it owns in the future.
The MAIB also released a flyer enumerating various safety lessons:
- Passage planning is a prerequisite of safe navigation, particularly in unfamiliar waters. Plotting an intended route either on a paper chart or in a chart plotter not only provides an overview of the planned passage, but it also enables all potential hazards to be identified and avoided.
- Keeping a good lookout does not just require looking out of the window. It also requires tying in what can be seen with what is shown on the chart, and therefore is expected, and adjusting radar displays and chart plotters to ensure that the track ahead is clear.
- Fishing invariably involves working long and unsociable hours. However, careful management is required to prevent limited opportunities to rest impacting on a vessel’s safe operation. The ability to work a watch system that ensures wheelhouse watchkeepers get adequate rest and enable the provision of an additional lookout at night, is an essential factor when determining manning levels.
- Leaving a wheelhouse unattended is never a good move, no matter for how brief a period.
- Most fishing vessels rely on electronic chart plotters for marking positions of underwater obstructions, fishing gear, and successful fishing tows. Due to the advantage that real time positioning provides, chart plotters are also invariably used for navigation instead of paper charts. However, unless the plotters are loaded with up-to-date electronic charts at appropriate scales, they will not be sufficiently accurate for navigation.
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