Fish farm vessel grounded as skipper slept –

Fish farm vessel grounded as skipper slept Published:  04 July, 2007

A VESSEL working for the fish farming sector went aground in the Sound of Mull because her skipper was asleep, an inquiry report revealed today.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the incident involving the Norwegian registered Aqua-boy says the accident occurred following the master’s failure to take avoiding action on account of his having fallen asleep and then remaining asleep on watch.

It was early on the morning of November 11 2006, that the Aqua-boy ran aground about 20m from Ardtornish Point Lighthouse in the Sound of Mull.

She remained aground until 0645 when she refloated on the rising tide. Aqua-boy was then able to make her way to Oban, where an underwater survey of the damage was carried out.

Aqua-boy had been operating on the west coast of Scotland for over 15 years. Designed to carry live fish, she was engaged in the fish farming industry, transporting fish at various stages in their development between fish farms. At the time of the accident, the vessel was on passage from Gigha towards the Kyle of Lochalsh with the master alone on watch, the report goes on.

As Aqua-boy turned into the Sound of Mull, she entered comparative shelter, and vessel movement reduced. The effect of this, combined with the master’s already fatigued state, was enough to cause him to fall asleep.

The master woke with the impact of the vessel running aground. The mate, who was awake in the mess room, went to the bridge to see what had happened. After checking that the remaining crew member was awake, he then went forward to assess the damage.

The MAIB report says the following safety issues were identified:

· The master’s hours of rest did not meet the statutory minimum.

· In choosing to work more hours than were necessary, and restricting his intake of food, the master exacerbated his level of fatigue without taking full account of the probable consequences.

· Although a watch alarm was fitted, the alarm system was turned off.

· No lookout was posted and so the master was alone on watch.

· The vessel was operating below her minimum safe manning level.

The master made a brief effort to refloat the vessel by running the engines astern. When this was unsuccessful, he contacted the Coastguard, who then transmitted a “Mayday Relay”. This was acknowledged by Ronja Commander, a vessel of similar size to Aqua-boy. However, at 0246, the Coastguard was informed that Skan Viking, another vessel of similar size, was already in position and attempting to tow Aqua-boy off the rocks.

Skan Viking made two unsuccessful attempts and was then released when Ronja Commander arrived on scene at about 0400. Ronja Commander made her first attempt to tow Aqua-boy at 0408. This failed when the towline broke, and a second unsuccessful attempt was made at 0414.

Aqua-boy refloated on the rising tide at 0645 without further assistance. She proceeded directly to Oban for an underwater survey, and remained there until a repair port was organised.

Actions have since been taken by the MCA and the vessel’s owners. A recommendation has been made to the owners of Aqua-boy on the provision of formal instruction to the vessel’s master on action to be taken if it becomes apparent to him/her that the statutory minimum hours of rest requirements may not be achieved. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.