MAIB releases report into fatal man overboard from single-handed creel fishing vessel, Saint Peter, east of Torness Point, Dunbar, Scotland

MAIB releases report into fatal man overboard from single-handed creel fishing vessel, St. Peter, east of Torness Point, Dunbar, Scotland

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued their report into fatal man overboard from the single-handed creel fishing vessel, St. Peter LH22, east of Torness Point near Dunbar in Scotland in May 2021.

On the morning of 2 May 2021, the skipper of single-handed creel fishing vessel Saint Peter was shooting creels east of Torness Point, Scotland. There were no witnesses to the accident, but it is likely that one of the skipper’s legs became entangled in a bight of rope while attempting to unsnag a string of creels and was pulled overboard. The skipper was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), which fully inflated and kept him afloat, but once in the water he was unable to raise an alarm or reboard his vessel.

A concerned relative and a friend of the skipper searched for and found Saint Peter unmanned with a string of creels steaming from its shooting door. They contacted the coastguard, and the ensuing search and rescue operation located Saint Peter’s skipper, who was recovered from the water by helicopter at 17:51; he was unresponsive and a short while later was declared deceased.

The MAIB investigation concluded that Saint Peter’s working deck arrangement made it difficult for the skipper to work safely separated from the fishing gear while shooting creels.

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• The skipper died because he entered the water and was unable to reboard. It is most likely he suffered heart failure because of cold water shock, the risk of which was increased by his pre-existing
heart condition.
• It is highly likely that the skipper moved aft on the deck to untangle some creels that had become snagged while shooting, and his leg became caught in the back rope and he was dragged overboard.
• The skipper’s PFD inflated automatically, which kept him afloat with his airway clear of the water and prevented him from drowning.
• It would have been extremely difficult for the skipper to reboard Saint Peter in saturated clothing and without the aid of a ladder or other boarding device.
• The skipper was not wearing a PLB or other means of raising an alarm.
• The risk of becoming tangled in the fishing gear was increased while shooting as there was no physical barrier to separate the skipper from the back rope

Safety issues
  • single-handed fishing is known to be high-risk and fishers are advised to follow industry guidelines to minimise the chance of being pulled overboard
  • emergency measures such as the rigging of a man overboard ladder, and the wearing of personal locator beacons (PLB) improve the chance of reboarding a vessel and sending a distress message
  • following well-prepared risk assessments and realistic safety procedures offers the single-handed fishers protection from the hazards they encounter at sea

Given the existing guidance on the risks of single-handed fishing operations and the MAIB’s safety recommendations made in the Sea Mist report, no further recommendations regarding single-handed fishing are made in this report.

Related publications

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

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