Video: Five Fishermen Rescued from Sinking Trawler

Published Mar 3, 2017 12:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday morning, rescuers pulled five fishermen from the water after a forced abandon-ship from a sinking stern trawler. 

The fishing vessel Ocean Way was off the coast of Shetland, Scotland this morning when she began to take on water in rough seas. The crew signaled a mayday call at 0650 hours, and ten minutes later the Lerwick branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution dispatched a volunteer SAR crew to respond. The Lerwick lifeboat, a UK Coastguard helicopter and the fish carrier Gerda Saele were all on scene by 0805, and two lifeboat crew transferred to the trawler to set up salvage pumps. In an unusual coincidence, RNLI responder Darren Harcus also worked on the Ocean Way and had been on shore leave at the time of the incident, according to the Shetland Times.

The lifeboat and the Gerda Saele each contributed a pump, and the helicopter began to lift over another, but the rate of water ingress on the trawler was more than the equipment could counteract. Her captain, Steven Hughson, ordered abandon ship; however, the swell was too large to bring the lifeboat alongside for a ship-to-ship transfer, and to get off the sinking vessel, her five crewmembers and the two RNLI responders had to jump into the seas. The lifeboat lifted them all from the water and transferred them safely to shore at Lerwick Harbor. None were injured in the evolution, and they were not overly affected by hypothermia, despite the fact that they were wearing life jackets rather than immersion suits. 

“It all happened very quickly. The time between the crew jumping off the boat and the boat sinking was about two minutes,” said lifeboat coxswain Alan Tarby. “The rescue was made much easier because the Ocean Way’s crew were all wearing the correct safety equipment and had undergone safety training. It was a good outcome even although the vessel was lost, all the crew were unharmed."

Tarby told the Shetland News that he believed the trawler had struck something and damaged her hull. An investigation into the cause of the sinking is expected. 

The 1996-built Ocean Way was a whitefish trawler based out of the Skerries, an island chain in the North Sea about 130 nm northeast of Scotland. Her crew included two Lithuanian nationals and three Scots, including her master, who comes from a local fishing family.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charitable, non-profit lifesaving force with 350 rescue boats located around the British Isles. Its volunteers and full-time lifeguards have been saving seafarers in UK waters for nearly 200 years.