One year ago, on 27 January, 2021, the Nicola Faith BS 58 went missing off the coast of Conwy with three men onboard. The bodies of skipper Carl McGrath (34) and crewmen Ross Ballantine (39) and Alan Minard (20) were recovered several weeks later.

The vessel was raised by the MAIB at the end of May, after an extensive search to locate it. The MAIB’s report into the circumstances of the tragedy has yet to be released.

The families of the three lost fishermen have pledged to work with the RNLI in their memory, to improve commercial fishing safety and prevent other families suffering as they have done. Watch a video from the family and the RNLI below…

The families of all three men have already raised thousands of pounds, including a JustGiving page that raised £11,500 for the RNLI, after lifeboats spent more than 90 hours at sea searching for the men.

Additionally, a GoFundMe page raised thousands to help fund a private search for the vessel, thanks to the generosity of the local community. The families have now announced that some of the remaining funds will support the RNLI in its bid to save more lives.

The families are currently working with the RNLI to decide how the funds will be best spent to provide a lasting legacy for the lost men.

The RNLI invited the families to the Fleetwood Offshore Survival Centre to witness a training event run in conjunction with the Fishing Industry Safety Group. They attended classroom sessions and watched as fishermen were put into a survival pool with and without lifejackets, to experience first-hand the benefit of wearing one.

Man-overboard recovery training also took place. The course delivery is led by the RNLI. Seafish is the administrator of the funding, put together by the MCA and Trinity House.

As part of the course, which was attended by fishermen from across North Wales, the families spoke with fishermen about the impact of their loss, to stress the importance of wearing the correct kit and having a plan for an emergency situation.

Lowri Taylor chats with one of the fishermen attending the Fleetwood training course about the importance of wearing a PFD.

Ross Ballantine’s sister Lowri Taylor said: “One year on, we’re wanting to create a lasting legacy to the boys and use our experience to share our story and hopefully save more lives. It’s too early to say what measures may have prevented this dreadful incident, but anything that improves safety and gives fishermen a better chance has got to be a good thing.

“We don’t want any other families to suffer in the way we have all done, and feel by supporting the RNLI and speaking about our experience, we can make a difference.

“It was so very emotional for us to be there and see the fishermen who worked alongside our loved ones. However, we are grateful for the experience of meeting face to face with them and helping them to understand the impact of what is left behind.

“We are thrilled that the RNLI is using our interviews on future courses, and hope our story helps change attitudes to safety.”

RNLI fishing safety manager Frankie Horne said: “The family has shown such compassion and strength in wanting to use their tragic experience to prevent more lives being lost. The RNLI and its partners have been running these awareness events for a number of years.

“We are so grateful to the family for helping us to provide a real-life element of the course, which I firmly believe will be the most powerful tool in changing attitudes and behaviour. We are looking forward to continuing our relationship with the families and helping educate on the various projects running to improve commercial fishing safety.”

The RNLI with its partners is currently running in-water MOB recovery and lifejacket training sessions in Fleetwood, Aberdeen, South Shields, Lowestoft and Cork, and at the RNLI’s purpose-built college in Poole.

Full details on all upcoming events are available here.

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. Image credits: RNLI/Danielle Rush


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