The incident

On the morning of 3 March 2017, the twin-rigged trawler Ocean Way foundered 18 nautical miles north-east of Lerwick, Scotland, after suffering a flood in its aft compartment/accommodation space. The flood was almost certainly the result of hull damage caused when the port trawl door struck the hull during recovery of the gear.

Despite the crew’s efforts to bring the flooding under control using fixed and portable pumps, the ingress of water exceeded the pumping effort and Ocean Way succumbed to overwhelming down flooding when the open accommodation space escape hatch submerged.

Probable cause

Ocean Way foundered as a result of uncontrolled flooding in the aft compartment. The flood was almost certainly a consequence of hull damage caused during the recovery of the port trawl door.


  1. The crew’s actions to attack the flood were hampered by the absence of a bilge suction in the aft watertight compartment.
  2. Ocean Way did not meet the Fishing Vessels (Safety Provisions) 1975 as there was not a bilge suction in each watertight compartment.
  3. MCA guidance for fishing vessel crews lacked detail on the actions to take when dealing with a flooding emergency.
  4. The practice onboard of leaving the aft compartment drain valve open breached the watertight integrity of the aft engine room bulkhead.
  5. The absence of a bilge suction in the aft watertight compartment was not identified as a non-conformity during MCA surveys or inspections.
  6. Onboard training and drills had not prepared the crew for the scale of flooding they faced on the day of the accident.
  7. In the absence of any information on damaged stability, the skipper and crew of Ocean Way were not equipped to assess the risks posed by flooding and develop appropriate procedures.


UK MAIB advised the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to:

  • Update the Fishermen’s Safety Guide to include guidance on the emergency preparation and emergency response for flooding emergencies, including stability considerations.
  • Review and, where appropriate, update its guidance to the fishing industry and its marine surveyors on:

– the maintenance of watertight integrity in fishing vessels where drain valves are fitted through watertight bulkheads.
– the construction standards of 15 – 24m fishing vessels to ensure that all watertight compartments are fitted with a dedicated bilge suction.

A clearer definition of peak compartments should also be considered.

Further details may be found by reading the full report: