MAIB report into sinking of fishing vessels CHLOE T 1 Sept 2013 and AUDACIOUS 10 August 2012

The MAIB has today published its report on the investigations of the flooding and foundering of the fishing vessel AUDACIOUS 45 miles east of Aberdeen on 10 August 2012 and the flooding and foundering of the fishing vessel CHLOE T 17 miles south west of Bolt Head, Devon on 1 September 2012.

It is fortunate that there was neither injury nor loss of life. Important factors are highlighted here which can easily be exported to the large yacht world. But before we reflect on those, a wider view of the MAIB is shown here which we don't always appreciate. Those of us who have read the MAIB's French equivalent BeaMer report into the loss of yacht YOGI will be aware that is was a singularly useless document, outside of a commentary on loss of watertight integrity and stability. In my fleet letters, I have sometimes been a little critical of the UK MAIB, but credit where credit is due, they have not pulled their punches when taking the MCA to task, underlining again their independence, integrity and ability as a world leader in marine investigations.

In commenting on the MCAs effectiveness with statutory surveys of fishing vessels, the report states ‘ …MCA's surveyors face an extremely challenging task; they are presented with a very large scope of work to cover, and guidance that is, in parts, not credible'. A nice enough start, but overlaying what is sometimes referred to as a ‘shit sandwich' – good news – bad bit - good news again. The report continues ‘systems for recording the results of surveys and inspections are inefficient and vulnerable to error. The records did not contain enough detail to determine whether exemptions from earlier rules should continue to apply, or that the vessel's condition was being systematically checked. It is inevitable that mistakes in the documentation were made and highly likely that parts of the vessel were not surveyed in as much detail or as frequently as intended'. The Chief Inspector's opening comments to this report on the actions of the MCA are also unequivocal and forthright. And so they should be. The Red Ensign and seafarers at risk deserve better.

The precise reasons for the flooding of AUDACIOUS and CHLOE T are not known however irresistible circumstances indicate that both were caused by seawater cooling system pipework failing due to undetected corrosion. Inaccessible pipework is not a stranger to the yacht market and unless systematically checked and conditions recorded, undetected corrosion is inevitable. It is not a defence against the laws of Archimedes and corrosion to simply say ‘it can't be inspected, so we won't'. Alternative means of monitoring or testing will be required. If it cannot be done, then this must be raised with manager or owner.

The crews of both vessels knew to try and shut their main engine seawater cooling inlet valves but neither was able to do so because the layout of the engine rooms meant that the valve handles were quickly submerged.

As far as abandonment, it is clear to see the pros and cons of regular emergency exercises given the calm and efficient abandonment of CHLOE T and conversely the chimp's tea party aboard the sinking AUDACIOUS. This has been demonstrated time and time again and we make no apology for reminding ourselves and our friends at sea that training for emergency is the difference between life and death.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all crewmembers are given an opportunity to read this and confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions.