THE wheelhouse of the Audacious - a trawler that sank off the north-east coast last year - was left unattended by its skipper in the half-hour before the boat sank, an investigation has found.
Six crew escaped unhurt when the Buckie-based Audacious sank in calm weather 45 miles east of Aberdeen in August 2012.
They were forced to abandon ship after the engine room flooded due to the failure of either the main sea water inlet pipe or the main engine seawater cooling system, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.
An alarm in the wheelhouse went unnoticed until it was too late to save the vessel, its report into the incident concluded.
‘Left on several occasions’
“The skipper left the wheelhouse unattended on several occasions during the 30-minute period before he noticed the change in tone of the main engine,” the report said.
“This accident reinforces the importance of ensuring the wheelhouse is manned at all times to monitor equipment and alarms, as well as to maintain a proper lookout.
“As no continuous wheelhouse watch was kept, the initial activation of the engine room bilge alarm went unnoticed, and by the time the crew were alerted to the flooding it was too late to save the vessel.”
Recommendations have been made to the vessel’s owner about watchkeeping standards, the MAIB said.
Its investigation was carried out alongside another into the sinking of the Chloe fishing vessel off the coast of Devon in September last year.
In both cases, problems were found with the way surveys and inspections were carried out by staff from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the UK Government regulator.
Steve Clinch, chief inspector of marine accidents, said: “Both investigations reach the conclusion that the instructions provided to MCA surveyors with respect to important issues such as the testing and inspection of seawater pipework systems need to be improved.
“Of more concern is that both investigations also identified that the record keeping and management systems used by MCA surveyors require significant improvement.
“Missing intermediate inspections, and delays in the renewal survey process were noted in both cases; it is unlikely that either vessel received the level of oversight that was intended by the MCA’s instructions to its surveyors.”
Recommendations have been made to the MCA that aim to improve the scope, scheduling, application and record keeping of surveys and inspections of fishing vessels, he said.