The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued a safety bulletin following a chain failure which led to the death of a deckhand onboard a scallop dredger.

The bulletin urges owners and operators of beam and scallop trawlers to inspect their vessel’s quick-release arrangements, and to make any necessary changes to the equipment or its operation to ensure the safety of crew working on deck.

The warning has been issued following an accident onboard the Peterhead-registered scalloper Honeybourne III PD 905 off the coast of Sussex in the early hours of 7 October last year.

The MAIB bulletin – the purpose of which is not to attribute fault or blame – states that at around 11.45pm on 6 October, the lifting arrangement for the dredging gear that was suspended from the raised port derrick on the vessel fell to the deck without warning. The gear struck a deckhand working below, causing serious head injuries.

The crew of the vessel alerted the Coastguard and administered first aid to the unconscious deckhand. A Coastguard helicopter and an RNLI lifeboat were tasked to assist, but the deckhand was declared deceased by the attending helicopter paramedic.

The ongoing MAIB investigation found that a section of chain in the port dredging gear quick-release assembly failed as the gear was being retrieved. A 32mm chain link, which was led over a static steel pin at the derrick head, parted and allowed the towing block, monkey face block and associated gear to fall to the deck below.

The configuration of a chain led over a static pin as part of quick-release gear is commonly used on scallop dredgers and beam trawlers. The MAIB says that such arrangements are known to have failed previously, and chain fractures have been identified during routine inspections of quick-release gear.

The starboard side derrick arrangement on Honeybourne III.

In February 2021, the failure of a similar chain to that which failed on Honeybourne III resulted in the death of a deckhand onboard the beam trawler Cornishman PZ 512.

Following the initial stages of the investigation into the accident on Honeybourne III, the MAIB has recommended that all owners, operators and skippers of UK scallop dredgers and beam trawlers that use chain as part of the derrick head quick-release mechanism ‘urgently ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of a failure of the derrick quick-release mechanism chain has been undertaken and documented, noting the safety issues identified’ in the safety bulletin.

The MAIB urges that ‘mitigations are identified and immediately implemented to reduce the risk to the crew associated with a failure of the derrick quick-release mechanism toalevelthatisaslowas reasonably practicable’ and that ‘the crew are informed of the findings of the risk assessment and the measures taken for their protection’.

The MAIB also recommends that the MCA conducts a focused inspection campaign onboard UK scallop dredgers and beam trawlers fitted with derrick head quick-release mechanisms that incorporate chain.

The MAIB will publish a full report into the accident on completion of its investigation.

The safety bulletin can be accessed 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

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