mcib Galwad-Y-Mor subsea explosion

The MCIB has report into the incident involving the ‘Galwad-Y-Mor’ BRD 116, 22 found that a subsea explosion resulted in damage the crabber. Photo: Andrew Oliver

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published their report into the incident involving the ‘Galwad-Y-Mor’ BRD 116, 22 nautical miles off the Norfolk coast in December 2020.

The investigation found that the crew of the crab boat fell victim to an unexploded WII bomb, which had been lying on the seabed, whilst hauling their pots.

This resulted in severe damage to the boat and its equipment, including considerable injuries to the seven crew members.

After raising the alarm, the crew was rescued and evacuated to local hospitals and later the fishing vessel was towed to Grimsby.

The summary of the Report reads:

At 1122 on 15 December 2020, the 15m crab potting vessel Galwad-Y-Mor (BRD 116) was hauling pots in the North Sea approximately 22 miles north-east of Cromer. The crabbing gear disturbed a 250kg unexploded WWII bomb, which detonated on the seabed below the vessel.

The ensuing explosion caused a shock wave that threw Galwad-Y-Mor about, resulting in significant injuries to five of the seven crew and major damage to the vessel’s hull and machinery. Despite their injuries, Galwad-Y-Mor’s crew were able to send a distress message, launch the liferaft, and board rescue boats that had been dispatched by a nearby offshore support vessel. The injured crew were transferred to hospital by helicopter and RNLI lifeboat. They were treated for head, back and knee injuries. Galwad Y Mor was successfully salvaged and has been rebuilt.

mcib Galwad-Y-Mor subsea explosion

 Potting fishing vessel Galwad-Y-Mor at sea

The MAIB investigation found that:

  • The ordnance was an air-dropped bomb that had remained intact on the seabed since The Second World War.
  • The bomb detonated on the seabed and the shock wave and gas bubble from the explosion hit Galwad-Y-Mor.
  • The position of most seabed unexploded ordnance is unknown and Galwad-Y-Mor’s crew could not have anticipated the fouling of a bomb in the crab potting string.
  • Galwad-Y-Mor’s crew training, experience, length of service together and emergency preparedness improved their survival chances.
  • Galwad-Y-Mor’s hull was well constructed and able to withstand the force of the nearby seabed explosion
Safety Issues

Unexploded ordnance can be highly volatile even after many years of being submersed. In the event of encountering a UXO, seafarers are advised to follow the recommendations in MGN 323 (M+F) Explosives Picked Up At Sea

Galwad-Y-Mor’s crew could not have anticipated the fouling of a bomb in the potting string and the resulting explosion; their training, experience and emergency preparedness improved their chances of survival


Based on this accident’s circumstances, no action has been taken by external stakeholders and no recommendations made.

The aim of this report is to highlight the dangers that still exist with unexploded ordnance in the seas around the UK, and the actions to take should fisherman encounter any. In this case, the skipper and crew could not have foreseen the explosion and their level of preparedness to deal with such an emergency saved lives.

Related publications

Shortly after the accident the MCIB issued a factual, illustrated preliminary assesment brief detailing our initial findings and ongoing action.

MGN 323 (M+F) Explosives Picked Up At Sea

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MAIB finds subsea explosion caused damage to crabber Galwad-Y-Mor

by editor time to read: 6 min