Report on the sinking of the scallop dredger JMT published by the MAIB

The report on the sinking of the scallop dredger JMT has been published
The report on the sinking of the scallop dredger JMT has been published

The MAIB has issued its report into the capsizing and sinking of the scallop dredger JMT in 2015. The report will be of particular interest to surveyors given that the incident raises issues around the effect modifications made potentially had on the stability of the craft.

During the afternoon of 9 July 2015, routine contact was lost with the skipper and crewman on board the 11.4m scallop dredger JMT that was fishing off Plymouth, UK. A search and rescue operation was initiated the following morning when the vessel did not return alongside as expected.

The body of the crewman was found floating in a life-ring; he was not wearing a lifejacket. The wreck of the vessel was located 3.8 miles off Rame Head and was later recovered. The skipper was not found.

The MAIB investigation identified that:
• JMT capsized and sank at around 1501 on 9 July 2015; the weather was good at the time, with slight seas.
• The vessel had only 25% of the reserve of stability required by larger fishing vessels.
• The vessel’s stability had been adversely affected by structural modifications and by aspects of the vessel’s operation.
• Capsize was possibly triggered by emptying the starboard dredges while the port dredges and their contents remained suspended.
• The crew’s likelihood of survival was reduced by not having the opportunity to broadcast a distress message, release the EPIRB from its stowage, lifejackets not being worn and the failure of the liferaft to surface.

Safety lessons

1. Structural modifications that increase top weight and raise a vessel’s centre of gravity (winches, bigger gantries, higher lifting points etc), will reduce its stability. The extent of this reduction can only be determined through a full stability assessment.
2. When fishing, suspended loads, keeping the catch on deck, low fuel levels and not closing hatches and doorways have the potential to jeopardise a vessel’s stability.
3. Small fishing vessels are not required to meet stability criteria. However, simplified methods of assessing stability, such as the Wolfson Mark, can at least provide a basic indication of safety at very little cost.
4. The crew did not use the ‘constant wear’ lifejackets that were available on board. Neither survived.
5. The liferaft’s HRU activated, but it probably didn’t surface because the canister became trapped by the vessel’s superstructure. Finding a place to put a liferaft on small fishing vessels where it will not get damaged, interfere with the fishing operation and have a clear route to the sea surface in the event of capsize is not always easy. However, it warrants very careful and serious consideration.
6. It took over 18 hours for the crewman to be found because the EPIRB was kept in the wheelhouse and was not float-free. The fitting of a float-free EPIRB would have alerted the coastguard almost immediately and would have dramatically increased the likelihood of the crew’s survival.

Read the MAIB report in full: MAIBInvReport15_2016

Statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents

The loss of the scallop dredger FV JMT is one of many fatal accidents involving small fishing vessels that have capsized because their crews did not understand the fundamental principles of stability.

However, in common with nearly all fishing vessels <15m, FV JMT had not been provided with any stability information that might have given its crew some indicators on how to operate the boat safely.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has confirmed its commitment to introducing stability criteria for new fishing vessels <15m. This is a welcome initiative that will ultimately improve fishing safety over time but will have no impact on the safety of the UK’s existing small fishing vessel fleet for the foreseeable future.

The difficulties of providing existing small fishing vessels with comprehensive stability criteria are understood. However, the Wolfson mark, provides a practical and relatively inexpensive method of giving fishermen some indication about how to operate their vessels within safe limits.

The MAIB’s report into the loss of the scallop dredger FV JMT therefore contains two key recommendations:
1) To require all skippers to attend the Seafish stability awareness course; and
2) To fit the Wolfson mark to all existing fishing vessels <15m

If taken forward, these measures should help prevent the sudden capsize of small fishing vessels in the future and the tragic loss of life that such events will often cause.

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