Grab hopper dredger Abigail H capsized and sank while alongside at the port of Heysham when her bilge flooded at night. No bilge alarm was fitted because the half-century old 34 metre long vessel fell between two sets of regulations that would have required one.
The requirement to fit bilge alarms in engine rooms exists where these compartments are periodically unattended. This is normal practice in small vessels, and the Maritime and Coast Guard’s workboat and fishing vessel codes of practice require bilge alarms to be fitted. In larger ships, unmanned machinery space, UMS, is common and modern control systems are built with this in mind; bilge alarms are required and engine room personnel must hold formal qualifications.
Says the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch:”Abigail H is one of a large number of vessels that sit between these two groups. The effect is that these relatively small vessels require no bilge alarm and are manned with engine room personnel that have not received formal training.