A commercial vessel’s skipper has been convicted after passing too close to a small motor boat off the coast of Sussex, UK capsizing it and leaving three men dead.
At 0026 on 6 August 2017, the 5.64m recreational motor cruiser James 2 and the 26.24m commercial fishing vessel Vertrouwen collided in Sussex Bay, 1.6 miles south-east of Shoreham harbour. Neither vessel was damaged by the impact but James 2 was swamped by Vertrouwen’s wash and sank. At the time of the accident, the four men on board James 2 were rod fishing for mackerel; Vertrouwen had just left port and was on passage to Grimsby. Three of the men on board the motor cruiser drowned; a fourth was rescued from the water 5 hours later by a passing fishing vessel.
- The collision occurred because Vertrouwen’s lone watchkeeper did not see James 2, and once the sea anglers realised the danger, they had insufficient time to manoeuvre James 2 clear of the approaching fishing boat. The three sea anglers drowned because they were not wearing lifejackets or buoyancy aids and were unable to raise an alarm.
- The investigation found that neither vessel was keeping a proper lookout: Vertrouwen’s watchkeeper allowed himself to become distracted by using his mobile phone and working on a laptop computer; the sea anglers on board James 2 were focused on fishing.
- James 2 had not been sufficiently prepared or equipped to go to sea. It had inadequate freeboard, its navigation lights did not meet the standards required, and basic safety equipment was either not carried or not worn. If the sea anglers had been able to raise the alarm and been wearing lifejackets or buoyancy aids, all four of them would almost certainly have survived.
Recommendations aimed at improving standards of watchkeeping have been made to Vertrouwen’s owners, Macduff Shellfish (Scotland) Ltd. In addition, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the editors of major sea angling publications, inviting them to bring the safety lessons identified in this report to the attention of their readers.
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