Photo from the MAIB preliminary assessment on the Galwad-Y-Mor incident showing her low in the water after the explosion
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released the preliminary assessment of the explosion resulting in damage and abandonment of the potting fishing vessel Galwad-Y-Mor (BRD116), 22 nautical miles north of Cromer, Norfolk on 15 December 2020.
On 15 December 2020, Galwad-Y-Mor was operating in potting fishing grounds east of the Wash (Figure 1). At about 1120, the crew was in the process of hauling in a string of crab pots; the skipper was in the wheelhouse with other crew members below decks working the pots. The hauler was being used to heave in the back rope, and the crew had let the skipper know that there was a lot of tension on the line, when there was an unexpected explosion.
Galwad-Y-Mor was thrown up from the sea surface, then landed heavily back down; all propulsion and electrical power was immediately lost. The skipper was injured and dazed, but conscious, and saw that the wheelhouse had been completely wrecked. As he became aware that other crew members had been badly injured and that the engine room was flooding, the skipper ordered the crew to abandon ship. He also raised the alarm by texting the skipper of a sister vessel and activating the electronic position indicating radio beacon.
Although the liferaft had been manually activated, all crew members were initially rescued by the offshore support vessel, Esvagt Njord, then transferred ashore to hospital by helicopter and lifeboat. The abandoned Galwad-Y-Mor, which had settled low in the water as in the top photo, was towed to Grimsby by the tug, GPS Avenger, then lifted out of the water.
Galwad-Y-Mor was a 12.9m registered length, potting fishing vessel built in 2007. It was powered by a 268kW main engine driving a single, fixed-pitch propeller; deck machinery included a crane and hauler for handling pots. There were seven crew on board, two UK nationals and five Latvians. All crew members suffered injuries, some life-changing, during the explosion.
MAIB inspectors attended Galwad-Y-Mor once it had been lifted ashore in Grimsby. A summary of the key areas of damage was:
extensive shell plating indentation between frames (Figure 2) shell plating ruptures and shearing of a seawater suction main engine displaced from bedplate widespread and significant levels of destruction of the wheelhouse (Figure 3) and other internal compartments buckling of internal bulkheads and warping of decks widespread damage to upper deck fittings.
There was no evidence of an internal explosion.
While recovering crab pots using its hauler, Galwad-Y-Mor was extensively damaged and serious injuries were inflicted on the crew by an explosion. The explosion was in the water and external to the vessel. There was nothing that the crew could have done to prevent the accident. The source of the explosion has not been determined, but it was possible that old munitions on the seabed were disturbed as the vessel hauled its pots. Although extensively damaged and flooded, it is almost certain that Galwad-Y-Mor stayed afloat because the bulkheads either side of the engine room maintained their watertight integrity, containing the flood.
The MAIB has notified other relevant agencies including: the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Receiver of Wreck and the Ministry of Defence. The MAIB investigation is ongoing and a report of the accident will be published in due course.