The five-man crew of the Shetland whitefish trawler Ocean Way LK 209 were safely recovered from the sea by Lerwick lifeboat 20 miles east of Shetland after the 24.3m boat flooded and sank in just over two hours, reports David Linkie.

The value of safety training and survival clothing was selfevident in the highly professional rescue, in which time was of the essence throughout.

Ocean Way was following a frequently-used track when towing east of Whalsay in moderate sea conditions on Friday 3 March, when the twin-rig trawl gear unexpectedly picked up a heavy weight.

Skipper Steven Hughson and the crew started to haul the gear at around 06.30 hrs. The combination of a strong tide and a heavy weight on one side led to the gear coming up twisted under the trawler’s hull, with one of the trawl doors the wrong way round before being brought to the stern.

Shortly afterwards, Ocean Way’s engineroom bilge alarm activated. On immediately checking the situation it was apparent that the level of water in the bilges was rising, although no ingress of water was visible either in the engineroom or the accommodation cabin/steering gear compartment.

On contacting Shetland Coastguard to advise them that even with their pump running Ocean Way was taking water, the local salmon well-boat Gerde Saele, which was nearby having earlier left Lerwick for Norway, came alongside to transfer a submersible pump. This was immediately put into operation as Ocean Way made for Lerwick under her own power, with measures being put in place for divers to immediately access the hull for accidental damage possibly caused when the trawl door suddenly tucked under the trawler’s stern.

When arriving on the scene, the crew of the Lerwick lifeboat immediately transferred a diesel pump to Ocean Way, when two crewmembers, one of whom is a crewman on the trawler, went aboard the vessel to assist the crew, who were struggling to stem the ingress of water.

While the remaining lifeboat crew were preparing to receive another pump from the Coastguard Rescue helicopter, Ocean Way started to settle stern-first in the water, leading to skipper Steven Hughson giving the order for the seven men onboard at the time to abandon the vessel at 08.20 hrs.

Less than two minutes later, Ocean Way sank stern-first, while coxswain Alan Tarby quickly manoeuvred the lifeboat to pick up men in the water as quickly as possible, eight miles south-east of Whalsay.

Leslie Hughson, who skippers Ocean Way together with his son Steven, told Fishing News: “The professionalism of all involved thankfully prevented a difficult situation from becoming worse. Everyone involved did their best to try to save Ocean Way. Particular thanks go to the crews of the Gerde Saele and Lerwick lifeboat, who pulled out all the stops to help.”

The 24.3m steel-hulled Ocean Way was built at Buckie Shipyard in 1996 as Copious BF 237, before moving to Skerries in 2008. An MAIB team travelled to Shetland following the sinking to begin their investigation.


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