The Marine Casualty Investigation Branch (MCIB) has released the report of its investigation into the sinking of the Anna Louise S 715.

The report – the purpose of which is not to attribute fault or blame – says that on 2 July, 2022 the vessel, a 5.35m GRP open boat, departed Glengarriff harbour off Bantry Bay, Co Cork, at around 11am in calm weather conditions.

The vessel made for Whiddy harbour where pots had been previously laid. On reaching the pots, the single-handed skipper hauled the first two strings without incident. On hauling in the rope with the marker, a wave came over the stern and ‘deposited a large amount of water into the boat’.

The skipper rushed forward, past the stowed pots, to retrieve the bailing bucket. However, a ‘second large wave came over the stern and swamped the boat’. As a result, it filled with water and started to quickly sink.

The skipper, who was wearing a PFD, jumped into the water and kicked off his boots. He was able to swim ashore, where he recovered his breath before reaching a nearby house to raise the alarm.

The MCIB report says that the EPIRB floated free and activated, and the signal was received by Valentia MRSC, which co-ordinated a rescue response. The EPIRB and a lifebuoy were later retrieved. A message was received that the casualty was safe, and the rescue craft was stood down.

The vessel was salvaged on 4 July. A comparison between the recovered vessel and images of the boat taken at the time of the Code of Practice survey revealed several important differences which ‘increased the weight of the boat and reduced the working freeboard’, says the report.

Those differences included a heavier engine, a new steel transom bracket, a new echosounder, and bulwark handrails. The report calculates that including the weight of the skipper – which was 35kg more than had been estimated for the vessel’s stability test – as well as 10 lobster pots, bait and fish boxes, the vessel was loaded with 145kg excess weight compared to the condition allowed for at the time of the test.

The report concludes that the boat’s freeboard was reduced due to additional weight onboard making it more vulnerable to swamping – a risk increased by heaver weights aft and exacerbated by the skipper’s movements.

It says that modifications had been carried out that ‘reduced the freeboard’ and which should have been presented for approval to the surveyor who had issued the Code of Practice certificate.

The report notes that the skipper was wearing an approved PFD as required, which prevented a ‘more serious outcome’.

Several recommendations were made by the MCIB, including that the minister for transport should issue a Marine Notice reminding owners of fishing vessels of the dangers associated with modifying vessels, including changes to a vessel’s engine, without proper evaluation of the consequences.

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

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