Exactly why the Eire registered MFV Iúda Naofa suddenly flooded and sank off the Butt of Lewis is unknown, says the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB. report, but there are still lessons to be learned.
On the 17th January 2015, the Irish fishing vessel MFV Iúda Naofa departed with five crew from Rossaveal in the company of another vessel MFV Star of Hope. By the night of the 19th January 2015 the vessels were 50 miles North of the Hebrides.
On the morning of the 20th January 2015 with full holds the vessels were proceeding towards the Minches with the intention of returning to Lough Foyle. At approximately 09.00 hrs to 09.30 hrs on 20th January 2015, at position 59°16’N 009°34’W, the forepeak bilge alarm sounded on the MFV Iúda Naofa and water was observed in the bilge.
The pumps were started but could not stem the flow of water. At 10.33 hrs the vessel called the Irish Coast Guard for a pump to be delivered. Shortly afterwards, the water reached the generators located in the forepeak and the generator power was lost. At 11.53 hrs a HM Coast Guard helicopter landed a pump on deck, but the crew were unable to start the pump.
The vessel began to list to port and the helicopter lowered the winchman to begin the rescue of the crew. During the process the vessel further rolled to port and the crew climbed on the starboard quarter. As the winchman lifted the first man off, the remaining crew were washed into the water and the vessel went down by the head and sank rapidly. Two of the crew were lifted from the water by the helicopter and the other two crew swam to the life raft which had inflated and were subsequently rescued by the MFV Star of Hope. All crew were saved and were safely brought ashore.
The skipper realised, in sufficient time, that the vessel was in imminent danger of sinking, so he instructed all crew to don immersion suits and lifejackets. However as the crew worked to save the vessel, some lifejackets were removed
and one immersion suit unzipped.
MFV Iúda Naofasank in less than a minute. One crewmember had not rezipped his immersion suit and two crewmembers had not put their lifejackets back on.
The emergency pump dropped by the helicopter landed on the deck on its side. The crew stated that they had difficulty in releasing the pump from the wire as they were unfamiliar with the clip. The crew also stated that they could not start the pump as there were no instructions on how to start and operate the pump. In any event it is very unlikely that the pump had the capacity to deal with the volume of water aboard.
Only one crewmember had knowledge of the Hi-line Protocols for helicopter
Stornaway Coastguard confirmed there was a full set of instructions with the pump, including instructions on how to clear fuel flooding. They also confirmed that the release clip from the hi – line was of a standard type and that the crew shouldn’t have had any difficulty opening it.
MCIB has recommended:
Portable pumps have clear instructions for starting and operating attached to them. This should be communicated by way of Safety Notice to inform the fishing industry that the instructions are present with each pump and should be followed.
The MCIB recommends that the Minister updates Marine Notice No. 34 of 2000 regarding helicopter SAR Hi-line Protocols with specific reference to the fishing industry.
Hi-line Protocols should be included in safety training for fishing vessels