Know your liferaft – when the beam trawler Betty G capsized on 23 July 2012 the three crew took to the vessel’s liferaft and looked for a knife to cut the painter. They couldn’t find it and one crew member had to go back aboard the trawler to find one. Due to their unfamiliarity with the liferaft they did not know that a knife was secured in a black pocket on the roof of the raft.
A newly-released report from the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, says the vessel capsized as a result of the load in the starboard trawl net releasing suddenly. Betty G then progressively flooded and sank. The crew acted swiftly and deployed the liferaft, which ultimately saved their lives. No distress message was transmitted and no alarm was raised, even though the vessel was fitted with an emergency position indicating radio beacon, EPIRB, and an MOB Guardian.
As in other cases, the EPIRB was kept in the wheelhouse and could not float free. To maximise effectiveness, an EPIRB should be registered, regularly checked and serviced, and fitted in a float-free canister with a hydrostatic release.
The MOB Guardian system should have provided two things: a man overboard alert system; and, a vessel overdue warning. The first function is accomplished by each crewman wearing a personal safety device so that if they are separated from the vessel an alarm will be raised. The second function transmits a signal ashore at least every 60 minutes. If a report is not received ashore when expected, an alarm will be raised. Betty G’s system had not transmitted a report since 5 July 2012. In accordance with normal practice, as a report was not expected, the monitoring station had not conducted a follow-up call to the owner because 28 days had not yet passed.
The skipper was unaware of the need to re-register the system on taking ownership of Betty G and had not familiarised himself with the equipment. If he had done so, and ensured it was functioning correctly, the alarm would have been raised within an hour of the foundering.
A recommendation has been made to the owner of Betty G to assess and counter the risks associated with recovering fishing gear, and to improve crew emergency preparedness on any fishing vessel he may own in the future.
MAIB’s conclusions include:
• Betty G capsized due to a significant imbalance between the beam trawls caused by the load in one net suddenly releasing.
• It is most likely that the load in the starboard net led to the net failing.
• The port trawl wire was not able to be released, resulting in the vessel progressively flooding and eventually foundering.
• There was no effective means of releasingthe port trawl wire quickly with the winch dogclutch engaged.
• Activation of the port derrick head blockemergency release would have reduced theheeling lever and lowered the vessel’sVCG,which might have provided the crew with more time in which to try to recover the situation.
• Although Betty G was provided with stabilityinformation at build, the validity of the
information was unknown as no subsequent lightship checks had been conducted.
• The crew’s training undoubtedly assisted in the effective deployment of the liferaft, which ultimately saved their lives.
• The EPIRB, which could have alerted the coastguard, was not fitted so as to float-free,and it was not retrieved from the wheelhouse
before the crew abandoned the vessel.
• The MOB Guardian system, which could haveraised the alarm within an hour of the vessel foundering, was not functioning correctly.
• An effective risk assessment had not been conducted, leading to less than adequate crew emergency preparedness.