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Pair Trawler Which Sank With Four Crew All Safely Rescued Issued No Alert, MCIB Report Notes

30th December 2021
The pair trawler FV Aztec sank 500m south of Duncannon Fort in Co Wexford
The pair trawler FV Aztec sank 500m south of Duncannon Fort in Co Wexford Credit: via MCIB Report

A fishing vessel which sank off the Wexford coast last January should have issued a “Pan Pan” alert, a report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has noted.

Four crew on board the FV Aztec were transferred successfully to a paired vessel, FV Western Dawn, after the incident occurred at approximately 11 am on January 11th, 2021.

The position was 500m south of Duncannon Fort in Co Wexford and weather was calm with a westerly force four and slight sea state.

The 11.89-metre trawler with a GRP hull was rigged for mid-water sprat fishing with FV Western Dawn”.

FV AztecFV Aztec Photo: via MCIB Report

It had in the region of ten tonnes of sprat onboard and was due to offload the catch later in the day at Duncannon harbour, the report says.

The MCIB describes it as “a very serious marine casualty resulting in the loss of the vessel”.

It says both vessels had been pair trawling for sprat at this time of year for the past eight years, and the skippers and crews of both vessels were “familiar with the processes involved in this type of pair trawling”.

It says there were “no risk assessments or method statements for pair trawling listed in the FV Aztec’s safety statement”, and says “effective risk assessments and procedures would have highlighted dangers associated with pair trawling”.

The report says the vessel was heavily laden at the time and dependant on the buoyancy provided by the steering compartment to maintain its longitudinal stability.

“ Although not required, the FV Aztec had stability calculations done in 2017 for a condition with ten tonnes of fish in the hold. These stability calculations concentrated on lateral stability and did not address longitudinal aspects of stability,”it says.

“ Although no limits are set for vessels of this size, the loading of the vessel was a contributory factor in the sinking,” the MCIB report says.

“ This must take into account the weight of the catch onboard as well as the positioning of fish in the hold. The effect of the additional catch being taken on board at the time of the incident will have also caused considerable settling by the stern and listing to starboard,” it says.

“The combination of these forces will have left the longitudinal stability of the vessel dependant on the buoyancy provided by the steering compartment,”it says.

A hole in the deck went unnoticed when it occurred and “should have merited further investigation”, it says.

It says no alert was sent out by the FV Aztec or by the FV Western Dawn, and the first notification of the foundering of the vessel to MRCC Dublin was from the shore.

“ Although there was no imminent danger to life, as a serious incident occurred, a Pan-Pan alert should have been raised with the Coast Guard,” it says.

It says the steering compartment of the FV Aztec had no bilge alarm fitted, and no means of directly pumping out this compartment, and notes that a small drain hole allowed water to drain from the steering compartment onto the fish hold.

The report recommends that the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice to owners/skippers of fishing vessels reminding them to be aware of the safe loading capacity of their vessels.

It says owners and skippers should be advised to be aware - where the stability in a loaded state is dependent on a compartment’s watertight integrity - it is advisable that the compartment is alarmed and has a means of being pumped out.

It recommends the minister issue a marine notice to owners/skippers of fishing vessels reminding them that where an area of the deck is subjected to regular working and shock loading, consideration should be given to re-enforcing and strengthening that area.

It says the Minister should review the Code of Practice for fishing vessels under 15 metres to take into account heave loadings on decks during fishing operations.

It also says the code should be reviewed to take into account the maximum load of bulk fish a vessel is authorised to carry.

Published in MCIB, Fishing
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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