MAIB report issued into person overboard from creel fishing vessel with loss of life

At about 0736 on 28 August 2021, the owner and skipper of the lone-operated creel fishing vessel Harriet J accidentally entered the water while shooting the fishing gear. The unmanned vessel motored away and the skipper was neither able to reboard the vessel nor call for assistance. There were no witnesses to the accident and the alarm was raised by the skipper of another fishing vessel working in the area, who observed the unmanned vessel at 0745.

A search was carried out by local fishing boats and emergency services and just before 0900, the skipper was recovered unconscious from the water. He was airlifted to hospital but was declared deceased at 0955. The immediate cause of death was drowning.

Harriet J’s skipper was working alone, although in the same area as other fishing vessels, and probably entered the water when his foot became entangled in the chain weight at the end of the fleet of creels that was being deployed at the time. He was neither wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) nor a personal locator beacon (PLB).

Safety Issues
– the chance of survival was reduced because a personal flotation device was not being worn and a personal locator beacon was not carried;
– there was no effective way for the skipper to enter the working deck to clear a snag without the risk of being entrapped in the fishing gear;
– the risks of becoming entrapped and pulled into the water hadn’t been fully assessed or mitigated;
– once in the water, there was no means for the skipper to remotely stop the engine;
– promulgation of safety information related to safety in this sector of industry continues to be problematic.

Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG) has been recommended (2023/101) to expedite the delivery of the outcomes of its working group on lone-operated fishing vessels, taking into account the work commissioned by the MCA and Seafish.

Download the report: Harriet J report

A safety flyer issued following the loss of the skipper from the lone-operated creel fishing vessel Harriet J (AH180) west of Fast Castle Head, south-east Scotland, on 28 August 2021. The document summarises the circumstances and contains four key points reminding fishers of safety steps that could help save lives. These are especially critical when operating a vessel alone.

Download the safety flyer: Harriet J flyer


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