Report on fatal man overboard incident off Scotland highlights risks of single-handed creel fishing

Photo: MAIB

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently published its report on the investigation into a man overboard incident that had resulted in loss of life off the coast of Scotland on May 2, 2021.

On the morning of the said date, the skipper of the single-handed creel fishing vessel Saint Peter was shooting creels east of Torness Point, Scotland.

The MAIB said there were no witnesses to the accident but it is likely that one of the skipper’s legs became entangled in a bight of rope while he was attempting to unsnag a string of creels and was pulled overboard.

The report said the skipper was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), which fully inflated and kept him afloat, but once in the water, the individual was unable to raise an alarm or reboard his vessel.

A concerned relative and a friend of the skipper searched for and found the boat unmanned with a string of creels steaming from its shooting door.

They contacted the coastguard, and the ensuing search and rescue operation located the skipper, who was recovered from the water by helicopter at 17:51 local time. He was unresponsive and a short while later was declared deceased.

Safety issues

  • Single-handed fishing is known to be high-risk and fishers are advised to follow industry guidelines to minimise the chance of being pulled overboard.
  • Emergency measures such as the rigging of a man overboard ladder and the wearing of personal locator beacons (PLB) improve the chance of reboarding a vessel and sending a distress message.
  • Following well-prepared risk assessments and realistic safety procedures offers the single-handed fishers protection from the hazards they encounter at sea


Given the existing guidance on the risks of single-handed fishing operations and the MAIB’s safety recommendations made in the Sea Mist report (published in the wake of a similar mishap in 2019), no further recommendations regarding single-handed fishing are made in this report.

Related publications

A safety flyer to the fishing industry highlighting a number of the safety lessons was produced for this report.

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!