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Commercial Fishing



Safety support for fishers after deaths from dredge gear lifting equipment. Surveyors from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will be supporting fishing crews to stay safe at work after recommendations were made in response to incidents in which two people died.

A deckhand working on a scallop dredger, Honeybourne III, was killed in October 2023 when a section of chain link that formed part of the quick-release for the dredging gear failed, causing the suspended equipment to fall to the deck.

A similar incident in February 2021 resulted in the death of a deckhand on board a beam trawler, Cornishman.

The MCA’s support is being offered to a total of about 75 UK-flagged beam trawlers, mostly working as scallop dredgers, which are fitted with derrick head quick-release mechanisms that incorporate chain links passing over a static pin.

They will now be invited by their local MCA marine offices to book an inspection as soon as possible – at no cost to the vessel owner – primarily focussing on the significant hazards associated with this quick-release arrangement.

The move follows publication of a Safety Bulletin by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) which highlighted a number of immediate safety concerns to the industry, including ensuring lifting equipment subject to heavy wear and tear is properly monitored and maintained.

The aim is to raise awareness of the hazards associated with this type of lifting equipment and to help owners, skippers and crews to mitigate the risk.

Letters explaining how to access the support will be sent by the MCA to the owners of relevant vessels on the UK Ship Register. Owners and skippers have responsibilities for ensuring safety on board.

Tom Willacy, Assistant Director for Survey and Inspection, said:

The business of fishing, by its nature, carries significant risks. We want to support vessel owners, skippers and crew to ensure everyone comes home safe and sound from every trip.

When specific issues are identified from tragic incidents, we must work together to reduce the risks as much as we can. MCA surveyors are here to help make those checks efficiently, fairly and with no extra fees.

Safety checks will focus on how the lifting equipment is inspected and kept in good condition to keep workers safe from harm. Where possible, this should include a demonstration of how the derrick head quick-release mechanisms are inspected onboard by a competent person.

For contact details of local marine offices, visit Office access and opening times – Maritime and Coastguard Agency – GOV.UK.