The Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board (DMAIB) has released their report into an incident involving the Grimsby registered ‘Hendrika Jacoda’, at Thyboron harbour on 29 May 2022.
On 29 May 2022 at 0310, a crewmember from the UK-registered fishing boat fell between ship and quay while the ship was alongside in the port of Thyboron, Denmark. The crewmember was later on the same day found dead in the harbour basin.
Recordings from the port’s CCTV showed that a person had fallen into the water while attempting to board vessel early in the morning at 03.15. Later the same day at 21.10, DMAIB received information that the missing crewmember had been recovered from the water near the ship and was pronounced dead. Due to the accident’s serious consequences, DMAIB immediately launched an investigation to clarify the circumstances of the crewmember’s fall between quay and ship. Two investigators were deployed to the scene of the accident on 30 May 2022 to carry out an onboard investigation
The ’Hendrika Jacoba’ was built in 2020 and operated from various ports in Northern Europe depending on the fishing season. In May 2022, the boat operated from Thyboron Port and carried out fishing in the North Atlantic Ocean within the Norwegian EEZ. The ship was rigged with twin rig trawl and had monkfish, plaice and cod as target species.
The crew consisted of three Dutch fishermen, one of whom was the owner of the ship, and two Filipino deckhands.
At 20.55 on the 27 May the ‘Hendrika Jacoba’ landed in Thyboron after a 3.5 days fishing trip. The catch was unloaded and two hours later, when the unloading was completed, the ship approached the berth they had been assigned.
At this point, the owner had left the ship and was ready to take the mooring ropes on the berth, when ’Hendrika Jacoba’ arrived at 23.09. As soon as the ship was made fast, the Dutch crew packed their belongings into the owner’s car. At 23.35, they drove to the Netherlands for the weekend and intended to return early Monday morning.
The Filipino deckhands remained on board during the weekend. On Saturday morning, they started cleaning the entire ship, finishing late in the afternoon. In the evening, they had planned to socialise with a group of friends on one of the other fishing ships in the port, ‘Mikkel-Louise’. Around 1830, four of their friends from other fishing ships came on board ’Hendrika Jacoba’. Three of the visiting persons left the ship shortly after along with one of ’Hendrika Jacoba’ deckhands (Deckhand A). They went to the supermarket to buy some alcoholic beverages and headed for the fishing vessel ‘Mikkel-Louise’. The other deckhand (Deckhand B) remained onboard to have dinner with one of the visitors. Deckhand B and the visitor left ’Hendrika Jacoba’ at 21.10 and joined the group on ‘Mikkel-Louise’. When Deckhand B arrived on ‘Mikkel-Louise’, he could see that Deckhand A was in high spirits and noticeably affected by alcohol.
On ‘Mikkel-Louise’, they socialised the entire night and some of them consumed large quantities of alcohol. Around 0100 or 0200, Deckhand A and two others decided to leave ‘Mikkel-Louise’ to find a bar ashore. Deckhand B decided to stay overnight on ‘Mikkel-Louise’.
The next morning on 29 May 2022, the Deckhand B was awoken by one of the persons who had gone to the bar the previous night. He said that Deckhand A had left the bar alone and wanted to make sure that he had returned to the ship safely. He could not find him and reckoned that Deckhand A might be sleeping on ‘Mikkel-Louise’, as the door was locked on ’Hendrika Jacoba’, and nobody answered. Deckhand B accompanied him back to ’Hendrika Jacoba’, and they searched the ship, but Deckhand A was nowhere to be found. By the door opening in the ship’s side they found a blood stain on the deck. Deckhand B was puzzled by the blood, because it was not there the night before.
They went back to ‘Mikkel-Louise’ and talked about the missing deckhand to some of the others, who had participated in the social event the night before. None of them knew his whereabouts, and they started to look for him in the port area, on the other ships and in the nearby town.
As the hours went by, the concern grew among the searching persons, and they asked the skipper on the fishing vessel berthed next to ’Hendrika Jacoba’ to contact the harbour personnel and ask, if they were able to trace Deckhand A’s whereabouts on CCTV. The time was now 1315.
The harbour personnel looked through the recordings. 30 minutes later, the harbour personnel called the emergency services, as they observed a person falling into the water while attempting to board ’Hendrika Jacoba’ at 03.15. Shortly after, the fire department and the police arrived at the scene of the accident.
A search was initiated in the outer harbour basin by boat and a rescue swimmer, who searched in the sea surface. The rescue personnel assessed that the likelihood of finding the deckhand alive was low, because more than 10 hours had passed since he fell into the sea. They searched for two hours with no result. Due to a strong current in the harbour basin, the rescue personnel thought that the deckhand had been carried out into the ocean, and the search and rescue operation was aborted at 16.00.
The missing deckhand’s friends found it difficult to accept that he had not been found. In the course of the evening, they got the idea of dragging a grapnel over the sea bottom between the quay and the berthed ships.
In the fourth attempt, which was carried out by Deckhand B, the grapnel caught on to something heavy in the water. Deckhand B started to heave up the grapnel, and the body of Deckhand A surfaced.
Rescue services were immediately called, and they came to the site to recover the body. The owner of ‘Hendrika Jacoba’ arrived at the ship before the body was transported to the hospital and confirmed the identity of Deckhand A. He was officially pronounced dead at 0000 on 30 May 2022 at Regional Hospital West Jutland.
Conclusion or Report
The deckhand on ‘Hendrika Jacoba’ fell between quay and ship during an attempt to board the ship after a night of socialising. Due to changes in sea level, the ship had shifted slightly. This caused a gap to develop between a fender tyre, which was used as a means of access during boarding, and the ship. This made it necessary for the deckhand to bridge a distance of approximately 100 cm. While he had succeeded with this during the day, his ability to bridge the gap was most likely impaired by a combination of alcohol intoxication, head trauma and the type of footwear at the time of the accident. As the ability to board the ship fell short, the deckhand fell into the water and had no possibility of saving himself.
Stepping directly from quay to ship is a generally accepted means of access on fishing ships and other smaller ships as long as the distance between quay and ship is kept to a minimum. This also means that a gap between quay and ship is recognised as unavoidable to some extent, and this is commonly compensated for by the crewmember’s physiological ability to bridge the gap.
In Thyboron, the tyre fenders were perceived as an asset by the crew, as they kept the ship well away from the quay. However, this also introduced a minimum distance between quay and ship of 70 cm, making it necessary to use the fender as a means of access by aligning the door opening and the fender. While the tyre fender bridged the gap between ship and quay when aligned with the opening, the tyre fender became a hazard when the ship shifted and the door opening was no longer aligned with the fender. The distance that the deckhand had to straddle was longer, and the deckhand had to stand on a sloping part of the tyre to reach the ship.
The access way was not regarded as problematic prior to the accident by neither crewmembers nor visitors who all used the tyre fender and door opening as a convenient means of access. This illustrates the normality for the persons on fishing ships to compensate for shortcomings of the means of access with their own physiological capabilities, which in turn entails varying degrees of risk of falling