MAIB Safety Bulletins

MAIB Safety Bulletins are released by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and we repost bulletins which we think are relevant to our harbour users. The bulletins are provided on our website under the Government Open Government Licence v3.0

Louisa, a creel vessel fitted with a vivier system for maintaining the catch alive, foundered with the loss of three lives while anchored close to the shore in Mingulay Bay in the Outer Hebrides.

The skipper and his three crew had been working long hours, and had anchored the vessel at approximately 2230 to enable them to rest. Having all gone to bed, they were woken suddenly in the early hours of the following morning, 9 April, with the vessel significantly down by the head and apparently sinking. They were able to escape to the aft deck, don lifejackets and activate an EPIRB before abandoning the vessel, but were unable to inflate the liferaft.

One crewman managed to swim ashore and survive. However, the rescue services found the skipper and the two remaining crew unresponsive and face down in the water. The skipper was lost during recovery and remains missing. The two crew were later declared deceased caused by drowning.


Safety Lessons
1.The skipper and crew had all gone to bed, leaving the wheelhouse unmanned despite the engine running apparently at slow speed with the propeller engaged astern, and the vivier system pump driven from the main engine power take off.
All machinery and accommodation doors were left open and the hold hatch cover was secured in the open position.
The deck wash pump had probably been left running, and it is concluded that flooding of the hold from the deck wash hose through the open hold hatch was the probable cause of the foundering.

The condition in which Louisa was left while all on board went to bed was inconsistent with best practice and demonstrated an underestimation of the risks associated with flooding and foundering.
1.Louisa had been fitted with bilge pumps and bilge level alarms as required by The Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Fishing Vessels. However, the hold bilge alarm had previously been disabled, which prevented early notification of hold flooding to the skipper and crew.
2.The debilitating effect of fatigue should not be underestimated. Fatigue affects both physical and mental abilities and can significantly reduce risk perception and awareness. Instead of managing work routines to prevent fatigue and so ensure adequate levels of safety were maintained, the skipper drove the crew and himself to a state of tiredness such that the safety of the vessel and its crew were compromised.
3.Louisa was not transmitting an AIS signal, and the skipper and crew were not equipped with personal locator beacons. The rescue services were therefore reliant on gathering local information while awaiting a confirmed position from the vessel’s EPIRB. An historical record of Louisa’s movements would have proved particularly valuable to those involved in initiating and conducting the search and rescue operation.  


At approximately 0500 on 16 August 2016, a fire started in the crew mess room of the fishing vessel Ardent II while alongside in Peterhead. The three crew sleeping on board escaped without injury but the vessel was extensively damaged.
On 11 August, Ardent II returned from fishing and moored in Peterhead harbour. The vessel’s machinery was shut down and shore power was connected, enabling three of the crew to live on board while the vessel was in port.
The vessel was scheduled to conduct guardship duties the following week so the crew prepared for the inspection that was to be conducted prior to putting to sea. On 15 August, various contractors were on board conducting repairs and inspections. The vessel’s engineer was also on board working in the engine room.
By 1800, the contractors had all left and the three crew who lived on board cooked their dinner using a rice cooker in the crew mess room and a small oven in the galley. By 2345, all three crew were in bed, with the engineer still working in the engine room. He finished work and went home at approximately 0230, locking the door from the wheelhouse onto the upper deck as he left. All other doors and hatches were secured from the inside to prevent intruders.
At about 0515, one of the crew exited the accommodation and entered the crew mess room on his way to the toilet/washroom. He immediately became aware of the presence of black smoke and a smell of burning plastic. He alerted the other two crew, who then exited the accommodation into the crew mess room, unfastened the watertight door and passed through the doorway into the aft net drum space and then onto the quay. The crewman who had raised the alarm entered the wheelhouse, opened the wheelhouse door window, unlocked the padlock using a key from his pocket, opened the door, and passed onto the upper deck and then onto the quay.
At 0537, the emergency services were called after the three crew, who had escaped with none of their possessions, alerted the crew of a nearby fishing boat. Flames were seen emitting from the watertight doorway between the crew mess room and the aft net drum space. At 0546, the first fire appliance was on scene and the fire service continued to tackle the blaze until the following day. By this time, the vessel was extensively damaged and was later declared a constructive total loss.

Safety lessons
1. On examination, it was determined from the fire patterns and other evidence that the most likely source of the fire was an electrical multisocket adapter,which supplied a domestic freezer in the crew mess room. Fishing vessel owners and skippers have a responsibility to ensure electrical equipment is maintained in a safe condition. Regular visual inspection of electrical equipment to check for bare wires, that appropriate fuses are in place, and for signs of burning, together with regular Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), would provide an effective means for reducing the risk of electrical fires.
2. It was fortunate that one of the crew awoke and discovered the fire shortly after it had started.
In the absence of a smoke detector in the crew mess room, this alerted the crew to the fire and triggered them to evacuate the vessel without delay. Fires can start from various sources, and only by installing a comprehensive fire detection and alarm system that covers all spaces that pose a risk will a fishing vessel crew be confident of being alerted early enough to be able to take effective action.
3. Crew living on board a fishing vessel are exposed to particular risks which must be considered and addressed by the owner. In addition to ensuring that a fire detection and alarm system remains energised while alongside, the issue of access to the vessel in an emergency is something that should be taken fully into account before allowing crew to live on board. These and other factors are listed in relevant current guidance provided in Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 413 (F) – Voluntary Code of Practice for Employment of Non European Economic Area(EAA) Fishing Crew and MGN 425 (M+F) – Assessment of Risks for those sleeping on “Dead Ships”.