The Incident

While a trawler was towing its nets, it became snagged on a seabed obstruction. When it was freed, the skipped decided to check all the gear to find any problems; As the gear was being recovered, the port trawl door struck the hull heavily; This incident followed the engine room's bilge alarm.

After hearing the alarm, the crew discovered that the flood was in the trawler's aft compartment and the engine room was full of water, entering from the drain valve between the two compartments.

Credit: UK MAIB

Meanwhile, the crew was unable of controlling the vessel due to the fact that the flooding was at the lower part of the compartment and there was no fixed bilge suction in the flooding space. In addition, the crew attempted to control the flood with the fixed bilge pumps in the engine room and portable submersible pumps via the accommodation space escape hatch.

As the flood took hold, the engine room bilge pumps became ineffective. The portable pumps were also susceptible to blockages by debris. As a result, the flood could not be brought under control and the vessel was lost when the escape hatch submerged, causing overwhelming flooding.

All four crew members, as well as two lifeboat crew members that were there to assist, ended up in the sea with no injuries, as the vessel was sinking.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Flooding presents an immediate threat to a vessel – it should be considered as serious as a fire. As soon as flooding is detected, every effort should be made to stem or contain the floodwater ahead of other considerations.
  2. Always be prepared for any emergency. Conducting crew drills and checking that emergency equipment is in good working order will build crew confidence when a real emergency unfolds. Get together as a crew and think through the actions to take to deal effectively with such serious emergencies. Although this vessel could not be saved, the crew deployed their portable emergency pump and embarked a second pump to assist with the effort to bring the flooding under control.
  3. As well as tackling the flood, it is important to consider the vessel’s stability situation. In this case, post-accident analysis showed that, during the emergency, there was a serious risk of the vessel capsizing. This did not happen as the sea conditions were relatively calm. However, as a lifeboat and rescue helicopter were on scene, it might have been more appropriate to abandon the vessel earlier. This would probably also have prevented anyone entering the cold seawater.