On the 23rd May 2018, the casualty, operating a 21-foot open boat departed from an unidentified location near Clifden, believed to be a pier close to the townland of Coolacloy, Co. Galway, to commence laying lobster pots.
He was on his third run of the day and departed in the late afternoon. After approximately one hour, he contacted a friend by mobile phone saying the vessel was taking on water and he was in trouble.
The emergency services were alerted and knowing the approximate location of his vessel they proceeded from Clifden Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station. An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was also tasked.
The emergency services were on scene in approximately 25 minutes. A short time later, a body was spotted by the helicopter and the RNLI boat was directed to it. The body was recovered and brought ashore at the entrance to Clifden Harbour.
- The cause of the vessel’s sinking has not been firmly established. The most probable cause was the failure to properly blank off the redundant stern tube by failing to properly seal both ends.
- The only possible alternative was that the power from the outboard engine caused the stern to squat sufficiently to permit water ingress through the two transom holes found.
- If the vessel was engaged in commercial fishing then it should have complied with the requirements of the CoP for Small Fishing Vessels. The vessel did not have a Declaration of Compliance (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 CoP for 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 CoP for Small Fishing Vessels or the CoP for Recreational Craft which includes requirements for recreational fishing. In this case, the vessel did not comply with either set of requirements.
- The vessel did not comply with either CoP and it did not have the required safety equipment.
Following investigation, MCIB provided the following recommendations:
- The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should issue a Marine Notice confirming that craft engaged in non-commercial potting should comply with the CoP for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft and that craft engaged in commercial potting should comply with the CoP for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15m length overall.
- The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should issue a Marine Notice reminding owners of fishing vessels of the dangers associated with modifying vessels, including changes to a vessel’s engine, without proper evaluation of the consequences. Owners of vessels should comply with Section 22.214.171.124 of the CoP for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15m Length overall which requires proposed modifications to be agreed in advance, with one of the approved Code of Practice Surveyors.
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