Cork trawler crew escaped a minute before ship sank, report says
The crew of a Cork-registered trawler were lucky to escape after their vessel sank off the coast of Wexford earlier this year less than a minute after abandoning ship after a weight of 350 kg drilled a large hole in its deck.
A Marine Casualty Investigation Board report revealed how the accident caused FV Aztec to quickly submerge off Duncannon, Co. Wexford on January 11 after taking on water.
The fishing vessel with four crew on board was engaged in a pair trawl fishery with another vessel, FV Western Down, for sprat approximately 500 meters from shore.
Around 10 a.m., the FV Aztec embarked the ends of its net for the next tow. During the operation, the fishing weight of about 350 kg was dropped on the deck. It created a 3m² hole in the deck which went unnoticed by the crew as it had been covered in fishing gear.
Both vessels continued to trawl for another 45 minutes without incident.
However, a crew member aboard FV Aztec noticed the hole on the starboard side of the vessel when it began to list while picking up fish transferred from the other vessel. Water soon began to enter the hole in the deck and began flooding the trawler’s pilot service.
MCIB investigators said the vessel began to lose buoyancy and its stern sank deeper into the water.
The skipper of FV Aztec, who had 46 years of experience at sea, successfully maneuvered his vessel alongside FV Western Down and ordered his own crew to abandon ship. The MCIB report says the ship then sank within a minute and the crew of both ships were able to return safely to Duncannon Harbour.
The trawler was recovered during a salvage operation on January 29.
The MCIB said weather conditions at the time of the incident were relatively calm and did not contribute to the sinking of the vessel.
Investigators said the lack of a bilge alarm in the steering compartment meant the vessel’s flooding went unnoticed until it was spotted by a crew member. They noted that the FV Aztec already had around 10 tonnes of fish on board at the time of the incident, when another catch was being loaded.
The MCIB concluded that the ship’s load contributed to its sinking, although there was no limit on the size of the catch allowed on board. He said the weather did not allow the crew of FV Aztec to operate the bilge pumps which would have been ineffective against the rate of flooding.
The MCIB has recommended that Transport Minister Eamon Ryan issue a marine advisory to remind trawler owners and captains to be aware of the safe cargo capacity of their vessels and the advisability of having compartments in the hold alarmed with a means of being pumped. outside.