Report released on the loss of Nicola Faith and three crew members

MAIB has published its report on the capsizing and lowering of the 9.8 m large ceramicist Nicola Faith BS 58 on 27 January 2021, 3.0 km north of Rhos-on-Sea in northern Wales, with the loss of three crew members, reports Gaby Bartai.

The ship left its home port in Conwy shortly after noon. 10 a.m. on Jan. 27 with skipper Carl McGrath and crew members Ross Ballantine and Alan Minard on board. The plan for the day was to move several strings of pots to fresh grounds, and to pull and shoot strings that had previously been laid in the area.

During the day, the vessel worked two to three miles offshore near Great Ormes Head and east to Colwyn Bay. Around. At 2pm, Carl McGrath texted his puppy buyer informing him that he had 20 bags of snails on board and that he would later update him on the total number he intended to land. At 5:59 p.m., when Nicola Faith was 1.8 miles from Rhos-on-Sea, its IVMS stopped sending.

Nicola Faith did not return to port that evening as expected, but it was only at. 10.08 the following morning that the Coast Guard received a call reporting it as delayed.

RNLI lifeboats and Coast Guard helicopters were then dispatched to the scene. The search continued until kl. 18 on January 29, but no evidence of the missing vessel was found. An extensive underwater search then began.

The bodies of the three men were washed ashore at various locations over a three-day period between March 12 and 14. Everyone turned out to have drowned.

The ship was eventually located on April 3rd. The wreck was then raised and taken ashore; when it had been reflot, extensive stability tests were performed.

MAIB investigators concluded that the vessel must have grounded quickly as the crew was unable to sound the alarm. Indications suggest that it capsized to port and that the crew was trapped on board and taken down with the vessel when it sank.

The study showed that the vessel had been significantly modified since 2017 and that these modifications had eroded its margin of stability. It concluded that the vessel was likely to capsize and sank due to being loaded with catch and gear to a point of instability.

Nicola Faith had previously carried a similar and heavier weight of catch without incident, the report says, but on this occasion the skipper also moved several plugs of pots to fresh grounds, which not only added significant extra weight to the vessel but also resulted in a narrow and hazardous work area ‘.

The gear from Nicola Faith, which was salvaged from near the wreck – combined with today’s catch, turned out to have overloaded the vessel ‘to a point of instability’.

The report says: “The skipper’s decision to move four rigid pots at the same time (2,521 kg) combined with the catch (estimated at 2,090 kg) meant that Nicola Faith probably carried over 4.6 tonnes of catch and fishing gear on deck, and its already bad margin for positive stability had almost completely disappeared. “

The report also concludes that: “Nicola Faith was usually operated in an unsafe manner, with heavy loads of catch stowed on both the deck and the cat catcher. This resulted in the vessel having very limited freeboard and a reduced margin of positive stability.”

Although the purpose of an MAIB report is not to determine liability or apportion blame, investigators note that “the actions taken by the skipper to maximize Nicola Faith’s yields put the vessel at increased risk of capsizing and beyond its limits. ensure operation “.

None of the crew were wearing PFDs at the time of the accident. No PLBs were registered on the vessel and it was not equipped with an EPIRB as it was mandatory at the time of the accident. None of the crew members had completed any of the mandatory safety courses.

The ship is known to have experienced two near capsize in the 12 months prior to the accident. Local concerns had also been raised with the skipper over the very heavy loads with which the vessel regularly returned to port.

The report makes recommendations to the MCA to amend its Code of Conduct for vessels below 15 m to refer to a cargo limit rather than a catch limit, and to review its guidance to land surveyors to clarify what level of changes should trigger further examination of a vessel’s stability .

In a commentary on this report and the one on the loss of Joanna C (Fishing News, June 30, ‘Report issued on the sinking of Joanna C with the loss of two lives’), Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents Andrew Moll said: “There are important lessons about stability from these accidents, which must be understood and responded to by all small fishing boat operators.

“The first lesson is that changes, unless properly planned, can significantly erode a vessel’s margin of stability … It is important that skippers know the limitations of their vessels and that any changes to the vessel or changes in fishing methods are properly assessed and approved. before fishing resumes.

“The second lesson is that any vessel can become unstable if it is overloaded. Nicola Faith had been altered and the alteration had not been approved. Nevertheless, the vessel could have been operated safely with care. On the day of the accident, the crew moved their pots to a new area and also carried a full day’s catch.The combined weight of the catch and fishing tackle stacked on deck was far more than the boat was designed to carry, it capsized and all three crew were lost in that accident.

“Fishermen will always be tempted to land a big catch, but moving fishing tackle at the same time can be overwhelming.

“When fuel prices rise, the temptation to carry more and take fewer trips makes economic sense, but when it comes to stability, the results can be catastrophic.

“The lives of five families have been shattered by these two accidents, both of which were completely avoidable. To all fishing vessel crews, I have this simple message: safety begins with good stability. Know the limitations of your boat and operate within them.”

A safety leaflet has been issued to the industry with advice on vessel modifications, stability and the importance of PFDs, PLBs and EPIRBs.

The entire report can be read here.

This history was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fisheries sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single for just £ 3.30 here.

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