The incident

At about 0124 on 4 August 2019, the Spanish owned UK registered fishing vessel Coelleira grounded on Ve Skerries, a low-lying reef of the west coast of the Shetland Islands, Scotland, while on passage to land its catch in Scrabster, Scotland.

The vessel immediately listed to port and its 15 crew were evacuated by the coastguard rescue helicopter.

Attempts to salvage Coelleira were unsuccessful and the vessel broke up and sank.

There were no injuries and, although the vessel was carrying about 15 tonnes of diesel oil, there was no significant pollution.

MAIB inspectors were not able to board Coelleira before it sank and therefore no navigational data was recovered from the vessel.


Probable causes

The investigation concluded that the passage from the fishing grounds to Scrabster was not properly planned and the vessel’s position was not being closely monitored.

In addition, an effective lookout was not maintained, and the bridge was unmanned at the time of the grounding.

The investigation also identified that the judgment and performance of the skipper, who was on watch at the time of the grounding, might have been adversely affected by fatigue.

The performance and set-up of electronic navigation equipment available in the wheelhouse would also have adversely affected the skipper’s ability to monitor the vessel’s position and identify navigational hazards.



  • The route from the fishing grounds to Scrabster was not drawn on the paper charts or entered into the electronic chart plotter.
  • The vessel’s heading was adjusted to follow the coastline using information from the radar and chart plotter. Due to ineffective lookout and position monitoring, the skipper was not aware that the vessel was heading directly towards Ve Skerries following an adjustment of heading at 0023.
  • The skipper had experienced a disrupted sleep pattern and his levels of awareness and alertness were potentially well below those usually required and expected when watchkeeping close to the shore at night. He saw a light of the port bow but did not associate it with the light marking Ve Skerries.
  • Ve Skerries was possibly not displayed on the chart plotter due to the quality of the chart data or detected by radar due to the range scale selected.
  • The wheelhouse had been unattended for some time when the vessel grounded.
  • The watchkeeping routines and practices were at variance with regulations regarding rest periods, and fishing industry guidance regarding keeping a safe navigational watch.


Actions taken

The UK MAIB has issued a Safety Flyer to the fishing industry highlighting the lessons learned from this accident.



Following investigation, the UK MAIB recommended Blue Pesca Ltd to take steps to ensure that any vessel it may own in the future is navigated safely, paying attention to:

  • Requirements for rest detailed in MSN 1884 (F).
  • Guidance on keeping a safe navigational watch detailed in MGN 313 (F).
  • The coverage and updating of electronic charts.


Further details on the accident may be found herebelow:

UK MAIB report