The UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, has published a preliminary report into a man-overboard incident last November in which a deckhand was lost from the fishing vessel Cantara.
At about 0230 on 24 November 2008, Cantara began to shoot her fishing lines and baited hooks onto the sea bed in 200m depth of water. While shooting the lines through the aft hatchway from inside the shelter deck, the two end-of-line dhan buoys and a heavy marker buoy had been prepared to be launched into the sea by two deckhands from the open deck above. A 15m rope was connected between the marker buoy and the dhan buoys. The dhan buoys were also attached to one end of a 300m riser line, which passed through the hatchway and was stowed in a shelter deck bin.
When the fishing line had been shot, the vessel was stopped so that three heavy weights, which were attached to the other end of the 300m riser line, could be launched into the sea. The vessel then moved forward again, allowing the riser line to pass through the hatchway. When the riser line was nearly all out, one of the deckhands threw the dhan buoys over the side and, as the connecting rope payed out, the second deckhand released the marker buoy. Suddenly, the second deckhand was lifted up and thrown over the metre-high bulwark. The first deckhand shouted to the shelter deck crew, who saw the first deckhand land in the water on his back. The latter made no attempt to swim to the buoys and he was quickly lost from sight. The skipper manoeuvred his vessel to pick up the marker buoy to see if the deckhand had become entangled in the line, and he broadcast a “PANPAN” message on VHF channel 16, which was received by a nearby fishing vessel. He also attempted to send a Digital Selective Calling alert on medium frequency, but this was not received by the local coastguard station. However, the coastguard was later informed and an extensive search ensued, but the deckhand was not found.
It is likely that the deckhand, who was reported to be wearing an inflatable lifejacket, had stood in a bight of the connecting rope and was thrown overboard when weight came onto the rope.
The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the owner:
* Strongly advising him to introduce a procedure such that a positive check is made to ensure the connecting rope between the two dhan buoys and the marker buoy is clear of the deckhands, before it is joined to the main riser line;
*Stressing the importance of ensuring lifejackets are worn on deck and at other appropriate times; that they are serviced regularly; and that the inflation activators do not exceed their shelf-life; and
*Advising him to check that the radio equipment is functional and that it is being operated correctly.