Jul 222009
 

by William Redmond, UK Correspondent

lifejacketfisher

Lifejackets save lives but might need rethinking. Photo: Marine and Coastguard Agency

Mystery surrounds the sudden sinking of the scallop dredger, Aquila, off Ardnamurchan Point in the Western Highlands on July 20, in which three of the four-man crew perished, including the skipper, Tony Hayton.

The survivor was picked up by the yacht, Arran Comrade, responding to a May day call, within one hour of the trawler capsizing at 1710 BST. He was released from hospital shortly after. The alarm was raised by a member of the public who watched the sudden capsizing of the vessel from shore.

Fishing is Britain’s most dangerous occupation and such sinkings are all too common. All the crew were experienced and new the waters well though the sea conditions were described as rough. One suggestion is that the trawler’s gear

snagged on an immovable sea bed obstruction. The Royal Navy confirmed that submarines used the area for exercises but that no submarines were operating there at the time.

John McAllister, vice chairman of the Scottish Scallop Association, commented: “Something went wrong very, very quickly,” reinforcing the theory that snagging was a distinct possibility. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is conducting a probe into the tragedy.

Registered to Ballantrae, in Ayrshire, Aquila operated out of Maryport on the Cumbrian coast. The coastguard confirmed than none of the crew was wearing a life jacket but had they been their survival chances would have been improved. Perhaps this raises the issue about life jacket design tailored specially to the needs of fishermen, who might otherwise find life jackets too restrictive for the kind of work they must do in often trying circumstances.

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MCA Lifejacket safety poster

Nigel Blazeby, principal surveyor, MCA, says: “The MCA is committed to promoting the wearing of lifejackets at sea, 82 fishermen died after falling overboard between 1992 and 2006. If they had been wearing a lifejacket their chances of survival would have been far greater.

“We are not telling the fishermen anything that they don’t already know, what we are saying is – if you found yourself in the water it may well be the only chance you have of staying alive. Lifejackets are useless unless worn.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency recently commissioned a radio advertisement in the south west of England to appeal to fishermen to wear their lifejackets whilst on deck.

Listen to the advert .mp3 file format (480KB)

Fishermens Safety Guide A guide to safe working practices and emergency procedures for fishermen

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