The incident

On the 22nd November, 2017 at 12.22, the fishing vessel ‘FV Julie Eleanor’ departed with a single fisher aboard.

At 21.46 hrs on 22nd November the Coast Guard received a phone call reporting the fishing vessel as overdue.

At 23.15 hrs the SAR helicopter located the vessel at a position 1.2 miles south east of Barna where it was held fast to a line of pots.

The Galway lifeboat crew boarded the vessel at 23.21 hrs and found nobody aboard.

The sole Personal Floatation Device (PFD) with which the vessel was equipped was subsequently located in the wheelhouse.

The search was suspended at 01.33 hrs on 23rd November and was resumed at first light.

The body of the fisher was recovered around noon approximately five miles east of where the vessel had been located.

Conclusions

  • If the vessel was engaged in commercial fishing then it should have complied with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of Less than 15 m Length overall. The vessel did not have a DoC or the required licence to engage in commercial fishing.
  • If the vessel was engaged in recreational fishing then the vessel should have complied with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft.
  • It was unclear which activity the vessel was engaged in. However, from a safety perspective there is a requirement for the vessel to have complied with either the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of Less than 15 m Length overall or the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft, which includes requirements for recreational fishing. In this case the vessel did not comply with either set of requirements.
  • If the Casualty had been wearing the PFD and a PLB then the alarm could have been raised earlier and the Casualty may have survived.
  • The safety equipment on board was not maintained to the required operational standard.
  • There was no over side ladder or scrambling net. If such equipment had been deployed it could have enabled a conscious person in the water to climb back aboard unaided.
  • There was a lack of voyage planning with no responsible person onshore being informed of the sailing time and the time expected back in port. This resulted in a long delay before the alarm was raised.
  • The use of mobile phones as a means of communication at sea is not recommended as coverage can be unreliable. The vessel was not keeping a listening watch on VHF channel number 16.
  • The Maritime Safety Strategy published by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport emphasises the need for individuals to take personal responsibility to operate safely.

Recommendations

MCIB advised the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to issue a Marine Notice confirming that:

  • craft engaged in non-commercial potting should comply with the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft and
  • craft engaged in commercial potting should comply with the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15 m Length overall.

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