Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, has warned that roll-tests may give a misleading assessment of vessel stability in its accident investigation report on the capsize of the fishing vessel Heather Anne. It has also called for the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency to determine what behavioural changes are needed to ensure that fisherman wearing lifejackets on deck.
At about 2200 on 20 December 2011, the UK registered fishing vessel Heather Anne capsized and foundered in Gerrans Bay, Cornwall. The skipper and his crewman were soon recovered from the water by a nearby fishing vessel. Neither the skipper nor the crewman was wearing a lifejacket; the crewman had drowned. There was no significant pollution.
On 23 February 2012, Heather Anne was raised and towed to Falmouth for inspection. A stability assessment indicated that the vessel had been operating with a low reserve of stability. Heather Anne had been significantly modified since her build in 1971.
As a consequence, her displacement had increased by over 50% and, with a catch of an estimated 10.5 tonnes on board at the time of capsize, her freeboard was reduced to only a few centimetres.
Although Heather Anne successfully passed a roll-test following her conversion to ring-netting in 2010, the results of this type of test do not provide a full assessment of a vessel’s stability and can therefore be misleading. Current guidance on the methods that can be used to assess the stability of small fishing vessels is not sufficient to provide fishermen with the information needed to understand the limitations of the various options available.
Like other fishing vessels of less than 12m registered length, Heather Anne was not required to meet any statutory stability criteria. However, in response to a number of previous similar accidents that have resulted in recommendations from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency intends to introduce legislation by 2016 which will require small fishing vessels of under 12m registered length to comply with similar stability criteria to that which already exists for small
commercial vessels. The legislation will apply to new vessels only. New and existing vessels of 12m and over will have to comply with the stability requirements currently applicable to fishing vessels of 15m and over.
Recommendations have been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Marine Management Organisation and the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation which seek to improve the stability of small fishing vessels through the timely
provision of stability criteria and the promulgation of better guidance on the methods that can be used to assess vessel stability on all small fishing vessels.
A further recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency which is designed to provide support for ongoing efforts which seek to ensure fishermen wear personal flotation devices when working on the open deck. A
recommendation has also been made to the owner of Heather Anne which is intended to ensure the safe operation of any vessel that he may own in the future.