Nicola Faith was operated in an unsafe manner

The MAIB report into capsize and sinking of the whelk potter ‘Nicola Faith’ BS 58 finds the boat was operated in an unsafe manner. Photo: MAIB

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published its report into capsize and sinking of the whelk potter ‘Nicola Faith’ BS 58 with the loss of three lives on 27 January 2021.


On 27 January 2021, the whelk potter Nicola Faith capsized and sank 1.9 miles north of Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales with the loss of its three crew members. The vessel had been extensively modified during its life which had significantly reduced its margin of positive stability. On the day of the accident the Nicola Faith had been loaded with catch and retrieved strings of pots to the point of instability, which resulted in the capsize and subsequently sinking of the vessel. Nicola Faith had not been fitted with a mandatory emergency beacon to alert to the capsize, and it was not reported as overdue until 1000 the next day. Following its salvage by the MAIB, a thorough inspection of the vessel was carried out to determine possible modes of capsize and a full assessment of its stability was undertaken.

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Safety issues

Nicola Faith was operated in an unsafe manner and was loaded with a combination of catch and retrieved fishing gear to the point of instability

  • a mandatory Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) was not fitted to the vessel and the crew were not equipped with personal locator beacons
  • Nicola Faith was found to have been extensively modified; these modifications had eroded its margin of positive stability
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency surveyors had noted some of the modifications, however, the guidance concerning modifications that would have triggered a stability assessment was not sufficiently clear
  • although available on board, the crew did not routinely wear personal flotation devices

Statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents

maib report nicola faith

The FV Nicola Faith


Recommendations have been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to (2022/125) amend the Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15m Length Overall, to revise the wording and refer to a load limit rather than a catch limit, and to (2022/126) review and enhance the guidance to surveyors to clarify what level of modification should trigger further investigation into a vessel’s stability.

A recommendation (2022/127) has also been made to Nicola Faith’s registered owner, The Big Ship Limited, to ensure that a written agreement is in place to clearly identify the organisation or person responsible for the operation of any vessels it may own.

Related publications

safety flyer to the fishing industry highlighting a number of the safety lessons was produced for this report.

Other similar investigation reports include:

MAIB report 7/2013 Purbeck Isle

MAIB report 29/2015 Stella Maris

MAIB report 15/2016 JMT

MAIB report 6/2019 Nancy Glen

MAIB report 7/2022 Joanna C

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MAIB report finds Nicola Faith was operated in an unsafe manner

by editor time to read: 6 min