MAIB: Fatal Sinking Shows Danger of Skipping Stability Checks

The upturned hull of the Nancy Glen, January 18, 2018 (MAIB)

By The Maritime Executive 05-30-2019 09:16:56

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released its report into the fatal capsizing of the trawler Nancy Glen last year, and the results point to a known hazard: reduced stability due to structural modifications. The MAIB's chief inspector has called upon the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency to require regular stability assessments the stability of small fishing vessels like the Nancy Glen.

On January 18, 2018, the prawn trawler Nancy Glen capsized and sank in Lower Loch Fyne, Scotland. Only one of her three crewmembers survived. At 1750 hours, the vessel was on her final trawl of the day, in fine weather and calm surface conditions. The skipper - a 46-year-old fisherman with three decades of experience on the water - was at the wheel. As he made a starboard turn, her starboard net became fouled with mud and debris, and with an increased towing load from the trawl net she heeled over. As she capsized, one of the crewmembers jumped overboard, and he was soon rescued by a good samaritan; the skipper and the other crewmember were trapped inside the vessel's upturned hull, which sank later that evening. Their bodies were recovered when the wreck was salvaged.

The MAIB’s investigation determined that modifications to Nancy Glen over the span of her service life - notably the replacement of her crane with a heavier model - had reduced the vessel’s stability, greatly increasing her vulnerability to capsizing. Her stability had not been assessed with an inclining experiment for 16 years, and at just 12.7 meters in length, she was below the threshold that would require regular stability assessments.

The accident bears similarity to many other fishing vessel losses, and the MAIB cited several recent examples in the UK - including the Stella Maris, which went down in 2014, and the JMT, in 2015. Both had undergone significant modifications before they capsized. 

Based on these casualties and its own surveys of the UK commercial fishing community, the investigators concluded that many owners and skippers are not aware of the risks of foregoing stability assessments. "There is no lack of published guidance, but it is being ignored with the consequence that vessels and lives continue to be lost," MAIB wrote.

The agency has recommended that the MCA should regulate stability for small fishing vessels, and the MCA has agreed to introduce rules by the end of 2020. However, even though the regulatory response is in progress, MAIB issued a stark warning: "Until such criteria have been derived and implemented it is likely that more vessels will be lost," it concluded.