Displaying items by tag: Marine Casualty Investigation Board
The European Court of Justice has ruled the State’s marine incident investigating body is not independent due to the presence of two civil servants on its board.
In a judgment issued late last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the Marine Casualty Investigation Board’s (MCIB) independence is “not guaranteed” and has awarded costs against Ireland.
Its ruling takes issue with the fact that the five-person MCIB board includes the Department of Transport secretary-general, or his or her deputy, and the Marine Survey Office (MSO) chief surveyor.
The ECJ ruling says that “in view of the functions performed simultaneously” by the two civil servants, Ireland is not fulfilling its obligations under Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/18” governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector” .
International maritime lawyer Michael Kingston has called for an “immediate public inquiry” into all investigations by the MCIB.
Mr Kingston, whose father Tim died in the Whiddy island Betelgeuse explosion 41 years ago, has already called for a “root and branch review” of the Department of Transport’s maritime safety directorate.
The Department of Climate Action, Communications and Transport said it is “examining the judgment in the case and is seeking legal advice to address the Court findings and the concerns of the EU Commission”.
The MCIB is responsible under the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping Regulations for conducting safety investigations and for drawing up reports and recommendations.
It is a non-prosecutorial body which does not enforce legislation, and its investigations do not apportion blame or fault.
However, its reports are made public, with recommendations to the Minister for Transport.
It has issued almost 300 reports since its establishment almost 20 years ago on commercial fishing and recreational casualties, and incidents involving ferries, merchant shipping and other vessels.
It published both an interim and final report into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas off the Co Clare coast in September, 2016.
In taking the case against Ireland, the European Commission said the MCIB was not independent, on the basis that the responsibilities and activities of both the Department of Transport and the MSO could conflict with the investigative task.
The MSO holds administrative and enforcement functions in relation to ships and fishing vessels, related equipment, and the competence of mariners.
In its defence, Ireland argued that the MCIB reports are independent.
Ireland’s decision to defend the MCIB board’s composition had cost the taxpayer “substantial legal fees”, Mr Kingston said.
Mr Kingston says he has commissioned a formal report by Capt Neil Forde of Marine Hazard Ltd to carry out a review of the investigations, reports and recommendations of the MCIB.
Earlier this year, he made a submission to Garda headquarters seeking a Garda inquiry into the State's role in investigating marine accidents. He was accompanied by Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Anne Marie O’Brien, whose brother John O’Brien and his friend Patrick Esmonde drowned in 2010 off Helvick Head, Co Wexford.
Mr Kingston, who has worked as a consultant to the International Maritime Organisation, also claims that the State had been alerted to malfunctioning of emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) before the deaths of Paul (49), Kenny (47) and Shane (44) Bolger from Passage East, Co Waterford in Tramore Bay in June 2013.
All three brothers had been wearing lifejackets when their punt capsized. Their emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) signals alerting rescue agencies to their location were not picked up.
The year after the incident, the manufacturer issued a product recall for EPIRBs manufactured between January 2005 and February 2008.
The Department of Transport subsequently confirmed that in 2010 it had contacted the manufacturer over false alerts and battery failures.
The need for formal navigation planning has been highlighted in a Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report on the sinking of a West Cork fishing vessel in Ardglass harbour, Co Down last year.
The report on the sinking of the FV Dillon Owen has also highlighted the need for emergency exercise drills to prepare for groundings and collisions.
The 23-metre pelagic vessel registered in Skibbereen, Co Cork, was entering Ardglass harbour to land herring and sprat and refuel in the early hours of October 23rd, 2019 when it lost power and drifted onto rocks at Phennick point.
The vessel sank over the following days, and the wreck was recovered and sent for demolition. The MCIB report says there was no pollution of the environment.
The report says three distinct events occurred: the initial grounding; the loss of power; and finally the second grounding and sinking of the vessel.
It says the second grounding was caused by the failure of the crew to deploy the primary anchor as the prevailing wind sea direction drove the powerless vessel towards the north shoreline and Phennick Point.
It says the “depth of water here was shallow enough to drop an anchor in order to stop the vessel’s drift”.
“By first focusing on attempts to release the trawl doors the crew lost valuable time,”it notes.
The report cites the “Recommended Practice for Anchor and Mooring Equipment”, which states that “the use of otter boards/trawl doors should only be used if the vessel has lost its anchors”.
“The Dillon Owen had not lost its anchors, and timely release by the crew of the vessel’s primary anchor at this time would likely have averted the vessel’s second grounding at Phennick Point,” it says.
The report says the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should issue a marine notice to remind vessel owners and operators to ensure all navigation is planned in adequate detail and with contingency plans, where appropriate.
It also calls on the minister to issue a marine notice “stating that fishing vessel owners and operators develop contingency plans and procedures and conduct emergency exercise drills to prepare for a grounding event or collision incident”.
It says that “where owners and operators of fishing vessels have an anchoring arrangement whereby chain cables are replaced by trawl warps”, crews should “ready anchors for deployment when entering or leaving port by connecting the trawl warp to the free end of the primary anchor chain”.
The Minister for Transport has been urged to remind fishing crews of the dangers involved in boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol, following reports issued this week of two separate fatalities in ports.
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found alcohol was a factor in the two unrelated incidents which occurred in Killybegs, Co Donegal in March 2019 and Rosslare, Co Wexford in May 2019.
In the Killybegs incident, a crewman from 50-metre Cork vessel MFV Menhaden died after he fell while crossing vessels in the port in the early hours of March 14th,2019.
Weather conditions were poor at the time with a lot of movement between vessels, the report says.
His vessel was in the Donegal port due to adverse weather and was one of three tied up alongside each other near the auction hall, including the Sligo-registered MFV Olgarry and Norwegian MFV Grip Transporter.
The report says there was a gangway rigged between the MFV Olgarry and the MV Grip Transporter, but there are no images on CCTV footage of this gangway being used by the casualty.
The alarm was raised after he was reported missing and a Killybegs Coast Guard team recovered his body on the shore on the east side of the harbour.
A post mortem report indicated death due to drowning at sea and the accompanying toxicology report indicated high levels of alcohol in the casualty’s system.
MFV Ellie Adhamh
In May 2019, a crewman onboard the 22-metre fishing vessel MFV Ellie Adhamh drowned after he fell between the deck and the quay wall in the early hours of the morning.
The vessel was in Rosslare Europort for a marine survey and had landed fish after its arrival on May 17th.
The MCIB says the toxicological analysis report from the post mortem confirms the casualty was under the influence of alcohol and “would have been a danger to himself and others in the port area at the time of the incident”.
“ As per the report on an incident at Killybegs on March 14th, 2019 this again highlights the dangers involved when attempting to board fishing vessels when under the influence of alcohol,” the MCIB says.
It recommends the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice reminding fishing vessel crews of the dangers associated with boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol.
It also recommends that the minister issue a notice reminding fishing vessel owners and skippers of the duty of care to provide safe means of access to vessels while in harbour, and of the importance of wearing personal flotation devices while boarding or crossing vessels.
The MCIB also says that Rosslare Europort should “consider reviewing its operating procedures including bye-laws and security plans regarding fishing vessel operations in the port”.
“This should include movement of crewmembers within the port limits and ensuring the perimeter is secure at night and also a suitable location for the berthing of fishing vessels,” it says.
The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has moved to highlight a recent report published by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board of the fatal incident on board “FV Oileán an Óir” as reported on Afloat.ie
The fatalities occurred due to the inhalation of lethal levels of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) accompanied by elevated levels of ammonia (NH3) that were present in the atmosphere in refrigerated seawater.
Entry into any enclosed or unventilated space should only take place after the space has been tested and proven to be free from toxic or suffocating gases. Measurement of Oxygen content alone should not be taken to indicate that the atmosphere is safe.
Owners and Skippers of vessels fitted with Refrigerated Sea Water Systems should ensure that notices are displayed onboard highlighting the dangers.
#MCIB - The official report into the death of a kayaker on a Wicklow river last year recommends that anyone kayaking a river of Grade 3 or above should carry a personal locator beacon.
The inquest into his death this summer heard that Murphy became separated from his group while paddling the river swollen by heavy rains.
Despite righting himself a number of times, he was quickly thrown from his kayak and seen face down in the water before the river took him away from his fellow kayakers.
He was later found trapped in branches amid fast flowing water two sets of rapids down from where he was last seen.
The report into the incident by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found that the river was rated between Grades 4 and 5 – advanced to expert – and within the capabilities of the group, some of whom had paddled it before without incident, and was only passable in flood conditions such as on that day.
However, it found that the noise of the river made communication between the group very difficult when out of line of sight, which hampered their search for Murphy when he became separated from the rest.
The MCIB recommends that "kayaking groups making descents on remove rivers of Grade 3 or higher carry registered personal locator beacons" or PLBs which would enable early alerting of rescue crews in the event of an emergency.
It also recommends that Canoeing Ireland advise kayakers in such situations to consider using waterproof radios to allow communication between group members.
Additionally it was found that the delay in contacting emergency services, due to lack of mobile phone signal in that remote part of Co Wicklow, "did not impact on the casualty’s survival" in this case.
The MCIB's complete report on the incident is available as a PDF to read or download HERE.
#MCIB - Various factors - including poor buoyancy, suboptimal lifejackets and a fateful late decision to swim to shore - have been identified in the official report into the death of a fisherman off the Waterford coast earlier this year.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a major search and rescue operation was launched on 10 January when a 16-foot fishing punt capsized in a strong swell at the sandbar off Brownstown Head near Dunmore East, throwing its two-man crew overboard.
James Tate was able to swim to the nearby shore in the early morning darkness after some two hours in the water. But he became separated from his friend Johnny Flynn - a former member of the Dunmore East lifeboat crew - who was found unconscious in the water by coastguard helicopter before 8.30am.
Flynn was pronounced dead at Waterford Airport shortly after, with a post-mortem concluding that he cause of death was drowning.
The tragedy occurred six years to the day after the sinking of Dunmore East trawler the Pere Charles, which took five lives.
In the official report into the incident, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found that the fishing punt, already vulnerable to breaking waves as an un-decked open boat, was more susceptible due to its waterlogged condition, and the lack of adequate buoyancy.
It was also found that neither the vessel's handheld VHF radio nor GPS device, or indeed Tate's mobile phone, were available to the pair after the boat turned turtle.
Though both men were wearing lifejackets, they were of a kind that lacked a collar that would have kept the deceased's head above water, nor did they have a light or whistle. Only Tate was equipped with any kind of light, so he could not locate his friend in the dark.
Most importantly, it was found that the boat had overturned within 100 metres of the shallows, so that if the pair had attempted to swim to shore earlier - rather than tire themselves out trying to climb onto the upturned hull - the chances of both men surviving the incident "would have been greatly enhanced".
The full report into the incident is available to download below.
#MCIB - Marine investigators have emphasised the dangers of drinking while at sea in the official report into the death of a lobster fisherman off Galway in April last year.
The body of Gerard Folan was recovered from the waters off St MacDara's Island, near Carna in Co Galway, on the morning of 24 April 2012 after he was reported missing the night before.
According to the report into the incident by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), Folan had set off in his currach from Dooeyher Pier in Carna around lunchtime on 23 April to check on lobster pots some 3nm away, off Deer Island - promising to contact his father on his return.
Folan was shortly after observed by another fisherman in the area, and was reportedly not wearing an oilskin nor a lifejacket.
Some hours later Folan's father went around the local piers but did not find his son. Later still, Folan's ex-wife contacted Clifden Coast Guard to report his disappearance and a search effort was mobilised.
Early the next morning, before the search resumed at first light, the fishing vessel Ocean Breeze sighted a drifting currach that was found to be Folan's. His body was later recovered off St MacDara's Island around 11am.
According to the MCIB report, it was not possible to determine how Folan became separated from his boat, though it was found that the currach's outboard engine had no kill cord attached, so it is probable the engine was running and the boat motored out of reach when he went overboard.
Although Folan was regarded as a strong swimmer, the post-mortem found elevated levels of alcohol in his bloodstream, which the MCIB report said would have hindered his attempts to swim back to his vessel.
Investigators also highlighted the "undue delay" in raising the alarm when Folan has failed to return earlier on the evening of 23 April.
The full report into the incident is available to download below.
#MCIB - Marine investigators have reiterated the importance of boaters informing people ashore of planned trips in their report into the drowning of a dinghy sailor in West Cork last autumn.
As reported last August on Afloat.ie, an afternoon sail by a father and son from the Beara Peninsula ended in tragedy after their Enterprise sailing dinghy capsized.
The body of John O'Leary from Allihies was found around 1.30am on Tuesday 14 August, just hours after he and his 18-year-son Christy had abandoned their overturned vessel to attempt the swim to shore.
The official report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found that the two had been sailing without incident in the area between Cod's Head and the Cullogh Rock for an hour or so before a gust of wind flipped their dinghy.
Unable to right the vessel, the O'Learys rested on the upturned hull to await assistance. But after many hours had passed and suspecting that the hull was starting to sink, they decided to swim to the shoreline some 800 metres away.
With 200 metres to go, John O'Leary encouraged his son to swim ahead to raise the alarm, which he did minutes later. But in the interim John went missing.
Some time into the search operation launched immediately by Castletownbere RNLI and assisted by the Irish Coast Guard from Allihies, John O'Leary's lifejacket was found in the water, and his body was located shortly after.
The MCIB report found that the Enterprise dinghy the O'Learys were sailing is of a kind notorious for its difficulty to right after capsizing. It was also noted that the craft had an insufficient buoyancy bags, which made it even more difficult to bail out once overturned.
But more importantly, the report found that John O'Leary, as skipper of the dinghy, had not arranged a return time or sailing area with anyone on shore prior to the trip.
"If he had done this, the rescue may have occurred before they decided to enter the water," the report said.
Neither man was wearing a wetsuit, exposing them to "the cold and stresses from the cold" which may have "impaired their decision making process" and prompted their decision to swim from the vessel, it added.
In its recommendations, the MCIB advises all sailors to inform a responsible person ashore of their itinerary, and to stay with their vessel as long as possible in the event of any incident on the water.
The full report into the dinghy capsize is available to download below.
#MCIB - Overloading of the boat deck and a missing hatch at the stern may have caused a fatal loss of buoyancy that led to the drowning of two fishermen off Co Clare last year, according to the official report into the incident.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the remains of the two fishermen were found by local divers at the wheelhouse of their sunken boat near Spanish Point on 14 August 2012 during a search operation for the fishing vessel Lady Eileen.
Their craft had been reported missing the previous day after they failed to return from a trip to mend snagged nets, and a massive search operation was mounted after debris and diesel were discovered in the water close to Spanish Point that evening.
The two men lost were later named as owner/skipper Michael Galvin and crew Noel Dickinson, both of Quilty in Co Clare.
In its official report into the incident, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found that the vessel had a low freeboard, such that even in an unladen condition it would not have to heel by a significant degree to take water on the deck.
With the weight of nets and the seawater tank used to store crustaceans, the vessel's freeboard was reduced such that water would be allowed to "flow freely on to the deck even in very calm weather conditions". This is water that would not be quickly released, with potentially very serious effects on the craft's buoyancy.
In addition, a panel removed by Galvin some weeks before to do repair work on the sterngear appeared not to have been replaced, possibly allowing a catastrophic amount of water on deck if the boat encountered wind or wave action.
With no witnesses to the incident it is unknown exactly what happened to cause the boat to be swamped, though it is thought to have transpired very quickly as neither man was wearing a lifejacket and the boat's manually operated emergency beacon in the wheelhouse was not activated.
Among the MCIB's recommendations is that the Minister for Transport reviews the Code of Practice for fishing vessels under 15m to devise new stability criteria.
Volunteers participating in search operations have also been urged to co-ordinate their assistance, after an open boat with three on board was capsized by waves while searching for the Lady Eileen and its crew.
All were thrown overboard though were quickly rescued by Garda divers in the area.
The full report from the MCIB is available to download below.
#TitBonhomme - The "extraordinary" lack of information solicited by the operator who took the first of two emergency calls from the sinking Tit Bonhomme has been taken to task at the inquest into the loss of the trawler's crew.
The Irish Times reports that it only emerged last week that two emergency calls were made from the vessel by its youngest crew member Kevin Kershaw, though the Irish Coast Guard and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) were previously aware of only one.
The first - and previously unreported - 999 call from Kershaw's mobile phone at 5.46am was transferred to Bandon Garda Station rather than to the coastguard. Barrister Elizabeth O'Connel, representing the widow of skipper Michael Hayes, described the dearth of details taken by the operator on that call as "extraordinary".
It was only on the second call placed three minutes later that the Irish Guard was notified of the incident by 5.53am.
The Department of Communications has since announced it will conduct a review of the 999 service provided by the Emergency Call Answering Service (Ecas), operated by BT Ireland from Ballyshannon, Navan and Dublin.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, five fishermen lost their lives when the trawler Tit Bonhomme went down after striking rocks at the mouth of Glandore Harbour.
The only survivor, Abdelbaky Mohamed, gave testimony to the inquest two weeks ago of his last moments aboard the stricken vessel.