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Commercial Fishing



MAIB report on fishing vessel North Star fatality. On 5 February 2018, at approximately 1815, Mark Elder, a crewman on the 16.46m creel fishing vessel North Star, was dragged overboard after his leg became entangled in the fishing gear as the crew were shooting creels 16nm north of Cape Wrath, Scotland. The crew recovered him back on board about 10 minutes later; he was unconscious and unresponsive. The crew carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation for over an hour, but they were unable to revive him.

The accident occurred because the crewman was working close to running ropes and became entangled in the back rope while engaged in toggling the creels on to the leg ropes. Although the alarm was raised quickly the skipper was unable to stop the vessel in time to prevent the crewman from being dragged overboard.

This is one of a number of recent accidents in which fishermen have died after becoming entangled in gear when the vessels’ crews have been unable to either prevent them from going overboard or quickly recover them back on board. North Star’s crew had not completed a practical manoverboard drill during their time on board and were ill-prepared for the emergency.

The MAIB investigation found that the vessel’s documented risk controls did not reflect the operational practice on board, and that the crew underestimated the risks associated with a crewman becoming entangled in the back rope and being dragged overboard. Shooting operations did not follow published industry best practice to effectively physically separate the crew from the back rope and to have knives at hand. In addition, North Star’s owner was new to fishing vessel ownership and did not take a proactive approach to ensure regulatory compliance in respect of risk assessment review, vessel inspection and crew qualifications.

North Star’s owner, Scrabster Seafoods Limited, has since installed a physical barrier to reduce the risk of crew becoming entangled in the back rope. The company has also reviewed its risk assessments, ensured its crew have attended mandatory safety training, provided personal flotation devices on board, and introduced a drug and alcohol policy.

A recommendation has been made to Scrabster Seafoods Limited, which seeks to further improve the overall safety of its crews.

A recommendation has also been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency aimed at improving the support and guidance it provides
to commercial fishing vessel owners.