Search Underway in Channel Islands After Ro-Ro Sinks Fishing Boat 

Ro-Ro hits and sinks fishing vessel
Ro-Ro Commodore Goodwill struck a fishing vessel in the Channel Islands (Condor Ferries file photo)

Published Dec 8, 2022 1:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

A large search operation was underway in the waters around Jersey in the Channel Islands Thursday, December 8, after a Ro-Ro cargo ship stuck and sunk a fishing vessel in the area off the coast of France. The Jersey Coastguard later suspended the search for the night and is bringing in a construction vessel working at a nearby offshore wind farm to assist with an underwater survey before resuming their efforts.

The incident happened around 5:30 a.m. local time as the 415-foot- cargo Ro-Ro Commodore Goodwill was bound for Jersey. The vessel had departed Guernsey about 45 minutes earlier with 24 crew aboard as well as five passengers. 

Witnesses aboard the vessel reported hearing blasts of the ship’s horn followed by the vessel tilling when it struck the fishing boat which was believed to have three people aboard. The fishing boat was seen drifting away after the collision and passengers aboard the Commodore Goodwill reported that the crew responded quickly.

The 5,200 dwt vessel registered in the Bahamas stayed in the area and immediately commenced its search as well as notifying the authorities. The local RNLI lifeboats were launched as well as boats from neighboring Guernsey. Two French rescue helicopters and a French naval fixed-wing aircraft joined in the search as well as local fishing boats, coast watchers, and drones. The Commodore Goodwill was seen continuing to search the water using its spotlights before it was released and proceeded to Elizabeth Harbor on Jersey for investigations to begin their work.

By mid-day afternoon, the Coastguard was reporting that some debris had been found in the water. However, they said that they believe the fishing boat sunk in waters up to 131 feet in depth requiring special diving capabilities. They were able to call in a construction vessel working at the nearby St. Brieuc wind farm project. The vessel is bringing remote-operated vehicles which will be used to survey the ocean floor to confirm the position of the fishing vessel. The Jersey Coastguard reported it suspended the operation overnight and will review information from the underwater survey before determining its next actions.

Condor Ferries, operators of the Commodore Goodwill issued a brief statement confirming that the freight vessel has been involved in an incident. They said they would be cooperating fully with local authorities. Television pictures of the Ro-Ro arriving in port showed scrapes and marks on the bow of the vessel as it was docking in Jersey. None of the crew or passengers aboard were injured during the collision.

Update: The Channel Islands called off the search at the end of day on December 9 planning to use the undersea capabilities to survey the sunken vessel. On December 13, the police reported that two bodies had been recovered from the fishing vessel and that the survey was still on going.