Eire’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB, brings attention, yet again, to issue of the failure of fisherman to wear lifejackets in its report on the capsize of the fishing vessel Na Buachaillí with a loss of life. A further issue is the inability of the vessel’s EPIRB to float free when the vessel capsized.
There were two crew aboard when Na Buachaillí capsized, neither wearing lifejackets, only one of whom survived. Had he been wearing one the chances are he’d have gone home to his family to tell them the story.
An EPIRB was situated in the wheelhouse which one of the crew attempted to reach but failed. Says the MCIB report: “When Mr. McNamara tried to get to the winch controls and failed he then tried to enter the wheelhouse to activate the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) but the rapidity of the list to starboard was such that the violent rush of seawater into the vessel forced Mr. McNamara into the wheelhouse, down the starboard side of the engine and into the area forward of the engine
under the forward deck, trapping him there. A quirk of fate then reversed the flow of water and Mr. McNamara was pushed back up and was ejected out the wheelhouse doorway”. The EPIRB was not arranged so that it could float free should the vessel capsize.
This is a common issue. EPIRBs should be mounted outside the wheelhouse and preferably be of the automatic float free type.
A further issue raised in the report is the effect on stability of alterations made to the vessel. An MCIB recommendation is “That any physical alterations or change of use that might have an effect on the stability of a vessel are overseen and authorised by a competent properly qualified person in accordance with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s Code of Practice for small fishing vessels under 15 mtrs”.