The vessel’s owner was informed of the incident at approximately 08:00 hrs that day. The owner arranged for the vessel to proceed to Castletownbere for an inspection of the damage and repairs. The inspection revealed that the vessel had considerable contact damage to its stem at the waterline and was holed above the waterline under the bows.
The FV Dearbhla had left Rossaveel at approximately 18.00hrs on 13 May. On board were five crew including the skipper, who was the only crew member who was not permanent and was only taking charge of the vessel for this one trip. The Skipper navigated the vessel out of Rossaveel Harbour and made passage through Gregory Sound in the Aran islands and then made course of 210 degrees (0) for the Blaskets, a distance of approximately 70 NM.
At 03:00hrs the vessel was estimated to be approximately northwest of Sybil Point when the skipper call a crew member to take over the watch. The Skipper gave the crew member instructions to change course in order to proceed through Blasket Sound. Weather was good with good visibility and moderate swell. The Skipper retired to his bunk for rest before the course change was made.
Shortly after taking over the watch Crewmember ‘A’ went down to the tea station in the crew mess to make a cup of tea. Before leaving the wheelhouse, the crew member switched ‘OFF’ the ‘Watchkeeper Alarm’, a timer device designed to give an audible sound in the wheelhouse every ten minutes. The device’s function is to ensure the watchkeeper remains alert and in the wheelhouse. He had switched off the alarm in order not to awaken the crew id he was delayed in making the tea.
After making the tea, the crew member returned to the wheelhouse to resume the watch but forgot to switch ‘ON’ the alarm and shortly afterwards fell asleep, claims the report.
The vessel was now on autopilot and the course remained unchanged. The watchkeeper had made no course change to Blasket Sound.
At 04:01 hrs the vessel’s position was 52° 03.9650’N, 010° 36.4710’W in immediate proximity to Inish na Bró; the vessels COG was 209.80, SOG 8.7 kn and unless the watchkeeper made a safe course change the vessel was standing into danger of grounding on the island of Inish na Bró.
The Skipper was called immediately and the crew alerted. The Skipper manoeuvred the fishing vessel away from the rocks and the crew investigated to determine the damage to the vessel. There was no water ingress to the vessel and no vibration felt from the propulsion system. The Skipper did not consider the vessel to be in distress and the emergency services were not alerted at this time. The vessel proceeded at reduced speed while a continuous assessment was made by the Skipper on the extent of the damage and the crew watched for any signs of water ingress.
At approximately 08:00 hrs the Skipper contacted the owner. The owner was informed of the incident and given details of the damage to the vessel. The vessel continued its voyage to Howth while the owner attempted to find a shipyard able to carry out repairs. The owner stated that enquiries were protracted before a yard in Berehaven was found to be available to take the fishing vessel in at short notice. The vessel was re-routed to Berehaven for inspection and damage assessment at Bere Island Boatyard. The vessel arrived at the repair yard at approximately 09:00 hrs on the 15th May. The owner viewed the extent of the damage and contacted the vessel’s insurance company at 10:00 hrs.
Damage found to the bows and stem was extensive. The hull plating was ruptured above the waterline and internal frames, beams, brackets and floors in the forepeak tank were deformed and buckled. The deck in the forward store was buckled. There was evidence of hard contact along the starboard chine and on the leading edge of the bilge keel.
The vessel was also inspected by a Surveyor of the MSO and detained on the grounds of the damage to the bow and stem and expired certification.
The report concluded
- That by falling asleep whilst on watch in the wheelhouse the watchkeeper did not make the necessary course alteration to keep the vessel in safe and navigable waters.
- The vessel grounded on rocks. The incident may have been averted if the required course change to navigate Blasket Sound safely was better supervised.
- The incident may have been averted if there were adequate facilities in the wheelhouse to make beverages and therefore allow watchkeepers to take light refreshments.
- The incident may have been averted if the Watchkeeper Alarm panel keyed switch facility had been used as intended by its designer.
- No evidence was provided demonstrating that the crew had received adequate training to reduce the risks of endangering the health and safety of the crew or preventing accidents.
The safety recommendations from the report suggests The Minister for Transport should remind owners and operators of fishing vessels of the following requirements:
- for crew to receive training as required under S.I. No.640 of 2007, Merchant Shipping (Safety of Fishing Vessels) (15 – 24 metres) Regulations 2007 as per below:
‘102. (1) Owners shall ensure that their vessels are operated without endangering the safety and health of the crew.
(2) The crew shall be given training and instructions on health and safety matters on board fishing vessels, and, in particular on accident prevention.’
- Under the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act, 2000, Part 3 – Reporting of Marine Casualties as per below:
‘23. (1) An owner, charterer, master, Skipper, person in charge, ships agent, ships manager or ships husband of a vessel involved in a marine casualty shall, by using the quickest feasible means, notify the Chief Surveyor or any other marine surveyor in the Marine Survey Office of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources of the casualty immediately he or she is aware that the marine casualty has occurred or commenced, as soon as practicable thereafter.’
The Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice:
- To remind vessel owners and operators to ensure all navigation is planned in adequate detail and that passage plans, with contingency plans where appropriate, are compiled and made known to the crew.
- To require fishing vessel owners and operators develop contingency plans and procedures for a grounding event or collision incident.
The full MCIB report can be read here.