Scottish authorities conclude fatal accident inquiry into 2015 cargo ship sinking in Pentland Firth

Cemfjord off the coast of Gdynia, Poland, in 2013 (Photo: Dubowicz)

A local sheriff in Scotland has concluded a fatal accident inquiry into the loss of a cargo ship and its entire crew off the Scottish coast eight years prior.

The inquiry was conducted to examine the full circumstances of the tragedy involving the Cypriot-flagged cement carrier Cemfjord, which sank in the Pentland Firth near the Orkney Islands on January 2, 2015.

The ship floundered in rough seas and eventually sank to a depth of 82 metres. Tragically, none of the seven Polish nationals and one Filipino national that comprised the crew were ever found despite an extensive search of the area by rescue boats, helicopters, and a Royal Navy frigate.

In his determination published on Monday, February 6, Sheriff Gary Aitken said the cause of the accident was the sudden capsize of the ship in violent sea and weather conditions during its westbound transit of the Pentland Firth.

Mr Aitken added that the entry of Cemfjord to the Outer Sound of the Pentland Firth could reasonably have been delayed until tidal and weather conditions were more favourable to its westbound passage and that might realistically have resulted in its capsize and the resultant deaths of the officers and crew being avoided.

Mr Aitken clarified that there were no defects in any system of working that contributed to the deaths of the crew or the accident resulting in their deaths.

A separate report released earlier by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) revealed that Cemfjord sailed into the Pentland Firth despite the fact that its crew had failed to adequately assess the severity of the weather conditions in the area on the said date.

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