The incident

On 6 March 2017, the fishing vessel Miss Cory was purse seining for herring with 5 people on board. After a successful catch, the crew lifted the net using the vessel's boom to transfer the fish from the net into a packing vessel. While waiting for additional packing vessels to arrive, the vessel leaned to starboard to the point where the vessel's rubbing strake was submerged. Water likely entered the vessel from behind the rubbing strake, making its way into the aft hold and causing further leaning to starboard. The crew unsuccessfully attempted to dewater the vessel, unaware that a capsizing situation was developing. The crew on deck abandoned the vessel in the final seconds before it capsized and sank. The engineer, who was below deck, was possibly unaware of the situation and was unable to escape the sinking vessel.

Probable causes

--> The investigation determined that the combined effects of the weight of the fish in the net and the progressive downflooding of the compartments in the Miss Cory caused it to heel over and capsize.

The attention on the task of dewatering the vessel likely affected the master's ability to maintain situational awareness and make use of alternate strategies to manage the vessel's stability or initiate procedures to safely abandon ship.

--> The vessel had not undergone a stability assessment for operations using its boom. As such, there were no means for the master to recognize that the vessel would rapidly capsize with a boom load of 5-7 long tons.

--> There were no procedures for the safe operation of the vessel or for dealing with emergencies. The crew did not practice emergency drills on board the vessel, though they discussed the muster list and associated emergency duties.

--> Uncoordinated abandonment of the vessel led to one crewmember remaining in the engine room when the vessel capsized, who was subsequently reported missing. If formalized emergency procedures are not practiced in drills, there is a risk that an emergency response will be delayed or uncoordinated, potentially endangering the safety of the crew and the vessel.

Conclusions

  • If formalized emergency procedures are not practised in drills by crew members, there is a risk that their emergency response will be delayed or uncoordinated, potentially endangering the safety of the crew and of the vessel.
  • In the absence of established safety practices and procedures, there is a risk that unsafe conditions will remain unidentified and unaddressed, putting the vessel and crew at risk of accident and injury.
  • If fishing vessels that use a lifting appliance during operations do not undergo a stability assessment that includes the lifting appliance, there is a risk that vessels will not be operated safely.
  • If fishermen are not provided with stability information that is relevant to their current fishing operations, there is a risk that operating practices will compromise vessel stability.
  • The safety of fishermen will be compromised until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues is recognized and addressed by the fishing community.
  • Of the 38 stability booklets examined in this occurrence, 76% were 20 years old or older, and the vessels' lightship weights have not been verified.
  • Ensuring that emergency position indicating radio beacons are registered and that the registration information is updated regularly can make it easier for search and rescue personnel to find vessels the event of a distress situation.

Following the occurrence, Fish Safe facilitated the development of a code of best practices for the roe herring fishery to address unsafe work practices that continue to put fishermen and vessels at risk. WorkSafeBC will enhance inspections in the commercial fishing industry, focusing on vessel stability documentation, emergency drills and procedures.

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