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Commercial Fishing


MAIB Report 2018. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) examines and investigates all types of marine accidents to or on board UK vessels worldwide, and other vessels in UK territorial waters. Located in offices in Southampton, the MAIB is a separate, independent branch within the Department for Transport (DfT). The head of the MAIB, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, reports directly to the Secretary of State for Transport.


2018 was a challenging year for the MAIB, though to some extent it was business as usual. The year saw 1227 accidents reported, just a few less than the previous year; and 23 investigations started, up from 21 in 2017 but still lower than 2016 when the Branch started 29 investigations. In fact, it looked like being a very quiet year for investigations until December when in the space of 4 days we commenced five investigations, three of which can be attributed to the heavy weather hitting the UK at that time.

For the ninth successive year there were no UK merchant vessels of >100gt lost. The overall accident rate for UK merchant vessels >100gt continues to fall at 64 per 1000 vessels, down from 75 per 1000 vessels in 2017. There was no loss of life to crew or passengers due to accidents on board UK merchant vessels >100gt during 2018. Three UK registered small commercial vessels were lost in 2018. There were two reported deaths of crew working on foreign flag vessels while in UK ports: one fell through an open hatch cover, the other was working under an unsecured hatch cover that fell on him.

Eight commercial fishing vessels were lost in 2018 compared with six in 2017. The loss rate of fishing vessels remains low at 0.14% of the fleet. Six fishermen lost their lives in 2018 compared with five lives lost in 2017.

The investigations started were the usual mixed bag. Merchant vessel accident investigations included four groundings and five collisions, but notable this year was the number of catastrophic failures of propulsion machinery. Two investigations, involving propulsion failures on Wight Link ferries in the latter part of the year caused us to review some previous investigation reports and to widen the scope of the investigation to encompass everything from design and installation to maintenance and operation. While this is taking some time, what has been heartening is the way that the manufacturers, operators, regulators and Class have collaborated with the Branch to identify the underlying safety issues.


In 2018, 1 227 accidents (casualties and incidents1) to UK vessels or in UK coastal waters were reported to the MAIB. These involved 1 339 vessels.
27 of these accidents involved only non-commercial vessels, 456 were occupational accidents that did not involve any actual or potential casualty to a vessel.
There were 744 accidents involving 798 commercial vessels that involved actual or potential casualties to vessels.


The MAIB annual report provides an opportunity for the Chief Inspector to raise concerns and make some general observations about marine safety. My predecessor regularly raised concerns about fishing safety, and it would be remiss of me not to do the same as investigating fatal fishing vessel accidents has accounted for 25% of the Branch’s work this year.

In 2018, tragically, another six fishermen lost their lives: three due to their vessels capsizing; two from falling overboard; and one from a noxious atmosphere in a fish hold. Since 2010, an average of 6.44 fishermen have lost their lives each year, and the figures bear out that the fatality rate has been fairly steady. When considered against deaths on the roads, these figures seem small. However, when adjusted to show deaths per 100,000 workers, the figures tell a different story. When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) posted its figures for the most dangerous profession in the UK, top of the list was the recycling industry. The HSE’s figures did not include commercial fishing. Had they done so, commercial fishing would have been shown to be the most dangerous occupation, by a factor of 10. There is no silver bullet that will alter this picture, but small fishing vessel stability and lifejacket wear stand out as areas where improvements could significantly
enhance safety.MAIB REPORT 2018


On a more positive note, there has been a significant increase in the rate at whichthe Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been completing actions to deliver on MAIB recommendations. My predecessor raised his concerns on a number of occasions about the time it was taking the Agency to deliver on recommendations it had accepted. Some of the success in this area can be linked to the UK ratifying ILO 188, which has helped
resolve a number of recommendations relating to commercial fishing vessels, but the
figure below – a snapshot of the position at April 2019 – tells its own story.

Captain Andrew Moll
Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents