Ireland's Marine Casualty Investigation Board issued an investigation report on a crewman's fatal fall overboard from a fishing vessel, east of Kilmichael Point, back in November 2016. The report identified issues related to lack of safety culture and training, as well as to non compliance with safety regulations.
On the morning of the 16th November 2016, the fishing vessel ‘FV Kerri Heather’ departed from Arklow with three persons on board, in order to lift and bait lines of pots. At approximately 09.00 hrs, as the second line of pots was being hauled, the crewman at the hauler fell overboard. Despite immediate attempts to recover him, and a subsequent search by lifeboats, fishing vessels and helicopters, the person was not recovered. Searches continued until 2nd December without recovery of the person. On 11 January 2017, a body was recovered on the South West coast of Anglesey and was subsequently identified as the missing fisher.
Of the top ten factors contributing to loss of life at sea in Ireland identified by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport Maritime Safety Strategy, the following four are present in this incident:
- The need for an enhanced maritime safety culture.
- Lack of crew training.
- Non-wearing of PFD (lifejacket/buoyancy aid).
- Inadequate enforcement of regulations.
- The Casualty in the water was most likely concussed or unconscious, after he fell overboard, as he did not attempt to swim or stay afloat. He did not respond to the actions of the Skipper nor attempt to grab on to the Skipper when they were in the water together.
- The lack of preparation, procedure or drills for a MOB situation resulted in a delay of 20 minutes before the alarm was raised.
- The response of the Skipper to the emergency was not in accordance with good practice and could have resulted in the loss of his life.
- The Skipper’s experience and training was not adequate for a skipper of a fishing vessel with crew.
- Prior to sailing there was no vessel familiarisation or safety briefing for the new crewmembers. The main consequence of this failure was a 20 minute delay in raising the alarm.
- The crew were not wearing PFDs. Under SI No. 586/2001 it is a requirement to wear a PFD by all persons on the exposed deck of a fishing boat. This vessel had six inflatable PFDs, three were fitted with PLBs. Had the casualty been wearing a PFD he would have remained afloat, even if unconscious.
- The vessel was not compliant with the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15 m Length overall as outlined in 3.3 above.
- Under the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15 m Length overall section 8.7 (see Appendix 7.5) it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure skipper and crew are qualified and competent to manage the vessel. In this case the Skipper did not have the required radio certificate and crewmembers without BIM safety certificates were being employed.
- In the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15 m Length overall there are certain requirements for fishing vessels that are only recommendations for vessels under 12 m. One such recommendation for vessels less than 12 m is for emergency drills. Had this been a requirement for the ‘FV Kerri Heather’ and such drills been carried out the crew would have been better prepared for the emergency on the 16th November. In any event whether this is a requirement or not, good practice would ensure that these drills are carried out
MCIB advises the following:
-That the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should:
- Issue a Marine Notice to draw attention to the necessity of regularly holding drills
- Consider making the holding of drills mandatory for fishing vessels
-That owners of fishing vessels must ensure that crewmembers:
- Hold the required qualifications
- Wear PFDs in compliance with SI 586 of 2001
- Operate and maintain their vessels in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15 m Length overall.