The Irish Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has issued its report on the sinking of the 12m trawler Aztec S 12 (pictured above) off Duncannon, Co Wexford.

On 11 January, 2021, Aztec sailed from Duncannon Pier at 7am to fish sprat in Waterford Estuary alongside her pair trawler Western Dawn. The Aztec hauled at 9.30am, and the crew transferred the catch, estimated at 8t or more, to the fishroom.

At 10am, the Western Dawn shot her net for the Aztec to take the end for the next tow. During this operation, the towing weight for the net dropped onto the starboard aft deck of the Aztec. This punctured a hole of approximately 300cm2 in the deck. Due to the amount of gear around this area, the damage went undiscovered at the time.

At around 10.45am, the Western Dawn hauled, and it was then decided to pass fish from the Western Dawn to the Aztec. The bag rope from the Western Dawn was heaved across to the Aztec. The securing of the bag rope on the aft starboard hanging block and the lifting of the codend caused the vessel to list to starboard and immerse the hole on the aft starboard side of the deck.

As the fish were being taken onboard the Aztec, a crew member noticed water flooding into the steering compartment through the hole in the deck. As this compartment flooded, the vessel began to settle by the stern. The skipper of the Aztec manoeuvred alongside the Western Dawn and, with the stern going underwater, instructed the crew to abandon ship.

The crew of the Aztec transferred safely to the Western Dawn, and watched their boat sink in less than one minute. The sinking was reported to the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Dublin by the Fethard lifeboat operations manager.

A salvage operation led to the recovery of the vessel on 29 January, 2021.

The MCIB report concludes that the vessel was heavily laden at the time, and dependent on the buoyancy provided by the steering compartment to maintain her longitudinal stability. Although not a legal requirement, the Aztec had stability calculations done in 2017 for a condition with 10t of fish in the hold. These calculations concentrated on lateral stability and did not address longitudinal aspects of stability.

It was stated during recovery operations that the Aztec had between 10t and 12t of fish onboard. Although no limits are set for vessels of this size, the loading of the vessel was found to be a contributory factor in the sinking. A second factor was that the hole in the deck went unnoticed when it occurred.

The MCIB investigators’ recommendations include for the minister for transport to issue a Marine Notice to owners and skippers of fishing vessels, reminding them to be aware
of the safe loading capacity of their vessels, and that where stability in a loaded state is dependent on a compartment’s watertight integrity, it is advisable that the compartment is alarmed and has a means of being pumped out.

It is not the purpose of MCIB investigations to attribute blame or fault.

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


Subscribe to Fishing News magazine today; never miss an issue and save 55%!