The Incident

Sixteen miles offshore and under rough seas,the creel's vessel personnel made every effort to avoid an incident. Although the vessel was well-equipped with a self-shooting system, the rough conditions they were facing didn't allow them to use it and three of the deckhands eventually led entangled in the ropes.

Specifically, one of the deckhands toggled the creels onto the back rope became entangled in the rope. While another one was trying to hold onto him, but since he couldn't find a knife to release him, he was dragged overboard, followed by the last creel that he had toggled on.

The crew immediately led the back rope on to the hauler to winch the deckhand back on board. Since the crew's actions were badly organized, it took them about 10 minutes to get the deckhand back on board.

When the personnel eventually managed to get him on board the vessel, they began CPR procedures because the crewman was unresponsive and not breathing.

Credit: UK MAIB

At the same time, the skipper who was all alone on the bridge, made his efforts to stop the vessel as soon as possible, as he has saw from the CCTV that the deckhand had become entangled in the gear. But he was unable to take all the way off the vessel before the deckhand was dragged overboard.

He then pressed the DSC alert button, as he realized that a further assistance was needed. He also tried to contact the coastguard on VHF radio to inform them about the situation.

His efforts to contact the coastguard didn't come to a positive result, since he was unable to hear the coastguard’s responses due to the distance between the vessel and the shore. After several tries, he called the vessel's owners, who then informed the coastguard.

The coastguard faced many difficulties to the rescue operation. The high wind and the rough sea state didn't allow their helicopter to transfer a medic on board or to lift the casualty from the ship. After almost 90 minutes of trying, the crew stopped performing CPR and the helicopter eventually left the scene.

After this unpleasant situation and with the personnel in shock, the fishing vessel began a long voyage to turn back to port.

Lessons learned:

  • The personnel must keep in mind the importance of drills, safety tips and talks, since they lead to a continuous assessment of actual working practices on board.
  • If on the crew was carrying a knife, or had it readily available on the working deck, they may have avoid this tragic accident.
  • The MCA’s Fisherman’s Safety Guide, and Seafish’s Potter’s Safety Guide both contain practical and safe ways of making fishing operations easier. A physical separation of crew and moving gear is undoubtedly the safest way of operating. The UK’s ratification of the ILO 188 Convention for working practices and conditions for fishermen reinforces the requirement for all operations on board to be properly risk assessed, and for corresponding control measures to be put in place.
  • The crew must be aware of wearing a lifejacket, although none of the deckhands was wearing. If the crewman had a lifejacket he had been able to free himself from the back rope while in the water, since the lifejacket would have reached him on the surface.