The incident

On the morning of Friday the 26th May 2017, the razor/clam fishing vessel ‘FV Shanie Boy’ departed Skerries Harbour for a planned 14 hour fishing trip, with one skipper and one other crewmember onboard. The vessel fished 500m offshore for a short period before moving to shallower waters inshore to continue dredging for razors and clams.

After a number of successful dredges the dredge partially filled with rocks and stones. It was hoisted to the top of the gantry but slipped off one of the two supports and fell to starboard. It became entangled in a cleat and caused the boat to heel to starboard. The Skipper attempted to correct the heel by turning the vessel, however, the boat continued to list and capsized very quickly.

Neither fisher was wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when the vessel capsized, although these were carried on board. Both the Skipper and Crewmember attempted to swim away from the up turned hull. However, as the vessel sank both men disappeared below the surface due to the effects of the sinking.

The skipper rose to the surface and shortly after he was taken from the water by the Skerries Inshore Lifeboat. The other Crewmember did not surface. A search commenced and the body of the deceased man was recovered from the sea floor the following day. Some pollution, in the form of a slight oil slick, resulted from the incident.

Conclusions

  1. The ‘FV Shanie Boy’ had last been surveyed in 2015 and was considered suitable for service as a razor/clam dredging boat. It had also been granted a Sea-Fishing Boat Licence by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. This had been applied for prior to the incident but was issued shortly afterwards. However, when the dredge filled with stones became dislodged from the gantry, the vessel rapidly lost stability suggesting that there was little reserve of stability in the first place.
  2. If the Skipper and the crewmember had been wearing PFDs, it is likely that they would both have remained afloat as the boat sank.
  3. The MCIB cannot determine the effect of the drugs on the crewmember. The consumption and use of drugs is known to affect cognitive function and behaviour. The effect, if any, of the drugs on the crewmember cannot be determined by the MCIB and is a matter for the coroner’s inquest.
  4. The proximity to the shore and the swift action of the Skerries ILB were factors in the timely rescue of the Skipper.
  5. Although an extensive search and rescue program was very quickly put in place, it was the fortuitous presence of the research vessel ‘RV Keary’ that was instrumental in locating the body of the deceased crewmember. The body was located on the sea bed in the vicinity of the sunken fishing vessel on the morning following the incident.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport:

  • update the standards applicable to small fishing vessels to ensure that they are in line with Maritime Safety Strategy Action No. 9.
  • consider investigating methods to prevent cabling from slipping down from the gantries of similar craft engaged in fishing using dredges.

It is recommended that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Food, Agriculture and Marine;

  • consider launching a campaign to illustrate the dangers of drug and alcohol use on operators of fishing vessels
  • relaunch the campaign to highlight the requirement to wear PFDs on all fishing vessels at all times.

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