Stability and PFD issues led to September 2015 commercial fishing fatalities off the west coast of Vancouver Island

RICHMOND, BC, Dec. 14, 2016 /CNW/ - Another fatal commercial fishing accident that occurred in September 2015 off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (M15P0286), has led the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) to issue five new recommendations.

On 05 September 2015, at approximately 15:30 Pacific Time, the Caledonian, a large, 100-foot fishing vessel with four crew members on board, capsized 20 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The crew had been fishing for two days. After the final catch was hauled aboard, and as the crew prepared to stow it, the vessel began to list. Within a couple of minutes, water covered the deck and the vessel rolled over. No distress call was sent and none of the vessel's emergency signaling devices activated. The vessel sank about six hours later. Only one crew member was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), and this crew member was the only one who survived.

"At the TSB, we have seen similar circumstances occur far too often. In fact, on average, 10 fishermen die each year somewhere in Canada's commercial fishing industry. These deaths are nearly all preventable, and this why this issue is still on our Watchlist," said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. "We are asking that all commercial fishing vessels have a stability assessment appropriate for their size and operation, that this assessment information be kept current, and that it be used to determine safe vessel operating limits."

The investigation determined that the capsizing of the Caledonian was caused by a combination of factors. The most significant ones were the operating practices, such as where the fuel was stored and the way fish and seawater were loaded, and the tendency of vessels to grow heavier with time. These factors caused the vessel to float lower in the water and reduced its stability, which changed its safe operating limits. The crew, however, did not recognize that the vessel had grown heavier over the years or that their operating practices were putting them and the vessel at risk.

"Here in British Columbia, roughly 70 percent of all fishing-related fatalities in the past decade came while not wearing a PFD. Yet many fishermen still don't wear them," said Chair Fox. "It's no longer acceptable to think of fishing as just a dangerous job and that nothing can be done about it. There are steps that we can take; there are steps that we must take."

Including this occurrence, the TSB has investigated 28 occurrences in the past 10 years resulting in 26 fatalities in commercial fishing in Canada. This investigation is similar to many other investigations and that is why the TSB is recommending that:

  • All commercial fishing vessels, large and small, have their stability assessed; and that this stability information be kept up to date and be presented in a way that is clear and useful for the crew.
    (Recommendations M16-01, M16-02, and M16-03)
  • Both regulators, WorkSafeBC and Transport Canada, require crews on fishing vessels to wear suitable PFDs at all times on deck and develop ways to confirm that they are complying.
    (Recommendations M16-04 and M16-05)

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

The TSB is online at www.tsb.gc.ca. Keep up to date through RSS, Twitter (@TSBCanada), YouTube, Flickr and our blog.

 

BACKGROUNDER

Investigation findings (M15P0286) in the September 2015 capsizing and sinking of the fishing vessel Caledonian off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Investigations conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) are complex – an accident is never caused by just one factor. The September 2015 accident off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, was no exception. There were many factors that caused this accident, the details of which are contained in the six findings as to causes and contributing factors. Furthermore, there were five findings as to risk as well as four other findings.

Findings as to causes and contributing factors

  1. The Caledonian's operating practices for consuming fuel/water and for loading fish/seawater differed from those presented in the approved stability booklet and significantly increased the risk of stability loss.
  2. The Caledonian's lightship weight had increased over the years, exacerbating the risk of stability loss and rendering it vulnerable to the additional forces acting on it at the time of the occurrence.
  3. The cumulative effects of the forces from the water on deck, the sea conditions, the drag of the port side trawl door, and the course alteration also contributed to the loss of the vessel's righting energy, leading it to capsize.
  4. As no distress signal was received nor was the vessel being actively monitored, search and rescue resources were not alerted until more than 6 hours after the capsizing.
  5. Other than the personal flotation device that the mate was wearing, no other lifesaving appliances were used or deployed before the capsizing, and the life raft, which was fitted with a hydrostatic release unit, did not deploy until approximately 6 hours after the capsizing.
  6. The master drowned, and the engineer and the deckhand sustained fatal injuries during the occurrence. The timing and specific circumstances leading to these injuries could not be determined.

Findings as to risk

  1. If fishermen are not provided with a practical means to monitor and assess freeboard throughout a vessel's life, there is a risk that a vessel's lightship weight will increase to a level where it has detrimental effects on stability.
  2. If standards do not ensure that the stability information provided to fishermen is current, comprehensible and relevant to vessel-specific operations, then there is a risk that operating practices will compromise vessel stability.
  3. If fishermen continue to operate their vessels without comprehensively assessing them for emergency preparedness, and do not conduct drills and follow-up briefings, then the risk remains that fishermen will not be prepared in an emergency, which may lead to fatalities.
  4. If fishermen continue not to wear personal flotation devices while on deck and their use is not required at all times, then there is an increased risk of drowning when a fisherman goes overboard.
  5. The safety of fishermen will be compromised until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues is recognized and addressed by the fishing community.

Other findings

  1. It was the practice for all crew members to be on deck during fishing operations, leaving safety-critical positions such as the wheelhouse unattended.
  2. The life raft did not deploy immediately after the capsizing and was not accessible to the crew until approximately 6 hours later when the vessel's aspect changed as it began to sink by the bow.
  3. To address the challenges of finding an optimum stowage position that allows for both manual and automatic activation of the required float-free lifesaving appliances, some operators have installed additional float-free life rafts and emergency position indicating radio beacons beyond those required by Transport Canada.
  4. Covers on the freeing ports limited the amount of water that could ship onto the deck and improved the vessel's buoyancy and stability, but made it less obvious that the vessel had experienced a significant loss of freeboard over its life.

 

BACKGROUNDER

Safety communications for TSB investigation (M15P0286)
into the September 2015 capsizing and sinking of the
fishing vessel Caledonian off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Occurrence

On 05 September 2015, the fishing vessel Caledonian, a large, 100-foot fishing vessel with four crew members on board, capsized and sank 20 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One crew member was rescued and the bodies of the remaining three crew members were recovered.

TSB recommendations

The Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act specifically provides for the Board to make recommendations to address systemic safety deficiencies posing significant risks to the transportation system and, therefore, warranting the attention of regulators and industry. Under the Act, federal ministers must formally respond to TSB recommendations within 90 days and explain how they have addressed or will address the safety deficiencies.

RECOMMENDATIONS MADE ON 14 DECEMBER 2016

Stability information for large fishing vessels

The Canadian fishing vessel fleet includes about 145 vessels that are greater than 150 gross tonnage, like the Caledonian, which are regulated under the Large Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations and are required to undergo stability assessments and have stability booklets produced. However, these regulations do not address the regular monitoring of vessel lightship weight and do not include standards or guidelines to ensure that vessel-specific stability information that is provided is adequate for use by fishermen. The Board therefore recommends that:

The Department of Transport establish standards for all new and existing large fishing vessels to ensure that the stability information is adequate and readily available to the crew.

TSB Recommendation M16-01

Stability information for small fishing vessels

Under the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations (SFVIR), a portion of small fishing vessels  have been required to undergo stability assessments and have stability booklets produced. However, the SFVIR do not address the regular monitoring of vessel lightship weight and do not include standards or guidelines to ensure that adequate vessel-specific stability information is provided for the use of fishermen.

In July 2016, in response to TSB Recommendation M94-33 and numerous others relating to fishing vessel stability, TC published, in the Canada Gazette, Part II, regulations to create new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations (FVSR) and replace the SFVIR. However, these new regulations do not address the regular monitoring of vessel lightship weight or the provision of adequate stability information for small fishing vessels that had stability booklets produced under the old regulations. The Board therefore recommends that

The Department of Transport establish standards for all small fishing vessels that have had a stability assessment to ensure their stability information is adequate and readily available to the crew.

TSB Recommendation M16-02

Other small fishing vessels

The TSB believes that it will take focused and concerted action by federal and provincial government agencies and industry members to finally and fully address the safety deficiencies that persist in Canada's fishing industry. Once all small commercial fishing vessels have undergone stability assessments that are appropriate to their size and operations and fishermen have access to adequate stability information, the loss of life associated with inadequate fishing vessel stability will be substantially reduced. The Board therefore recommends that

The Department of Transport require that all small fishing vessels undergo a stability assessment and establish standards to ensure that the stability information is adequate and readily available to the crew.

TSB Recommendation M16-03

Use of personal flotation devices (PFD)

Despite risk-based regulations and industry initiatives to change behaviours and create awareness about the importance of wearing PFDs, as well as design improvements by PFD manufacturers to address fishermen's concerns about comfort and constant wear, there has not been a significant change in the behaviour of fishermen and many continue to work on deck without wearing a PFD.

The TSB believes that the implementation of explicit requirements for fishermen to wear PFDs, along with appropriate education and enforcement measures, will significantly reduce the loss of life associated with going overboard. The Board therefore recommends that

WorkSafeBC require persons to wear suitable personal flotation devices at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel or when on board a commercial fishing vessel without a deck or deck structure and that WorkSafeBC ensure programs are developed to confirm compliance.

TSB Recommendation M16-04


The Department of Transport require persons to wear suitable personal flotation devices at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel or when on board a commercial fishing vessel without a deck or deck structure and that the Department of Transport ensure programs are developed to confirm compliance.

TSB Recommendation M16-05

 

BACKGROUNDER

Stability information for the investigation (M15P0286) into the September 2015 capsizing and sinking of the fishing vessel Caledonian off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Occurrence

On 05 September 2015, the fishing vessel Caledonian, a large, 100-foot fishing vessel with four crew members on board, capsized and sank 20 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One crew member was rescued and the bodies of the remaining three crew members were recovered.

Fishing vessel stability – Key points

A fishing vessel that is stable returns upright after it has been heeled over by tilting forces acting on it. These forces include the wind and waves, the weight of the vessel and its equipment, as well as the weight of catch, fuel, gear, freshwater, and other items onboard, particularly if they are off-centre.

When one (or more) of these forces heels a fishing vessel over, the force that brings it back up is called buoyancy. The amount of buoyancy that a vessel has for bringing it back up depends a lot on its freeboard. Freeboard is the distance between the water and the vessel's main deck. As a fishing vessel gets heavier, it floats lower in the water and freeboard is reduced. In general, vessels that have more freeboard are more stable.

Another thing that can affect a fishing vessel's stability is its centre of gravity, or the combined centre of all the weights that are onboard the vessel, including the weight of the vessel itself. In general, vessels that have a lower centre of gravity are more stable. The centre of gravity can be raised when catch is lifted by the boom, or stowed on deck. This can also happen when modifications are made to the vessel that add weight up high, such as if these modifications are made above the deck level.

For the fishing vessel Caledonian, there were several factors that combined to reduce its stability, leading to its capsizing:

 


Factor

 Effect

1

Weight creep – over about 39 years, the vessel's weight increased by about 50 tons

  • reduced freeboard

 

2

Modifications - the original net drum was raised and a second net drum and trawl were added

  • reduced freeboard
  • centre of gravity raised

3

Operational practices – the way fuel and water were stowed meant that the vessel was trimmed by the stern (floated deeper at the back)

  • reduced freeboard (at the back of the vessel)

4

Operational practices – the way fish were loaded meant there was extra weight above the deck

  • reduced freeboard
  • centre of gravity raised

5

Water on deck – when water came on deck, the extra weight was trapped and could slosh around

  • increased tilting forces
  • reduced freeboard
  • centre of gravity raised

6

Lifting weights – fish were lifted off the deck with the boom

  • centre of gravity raised

 

For further information, please refer to the infographic illustrating the items above.

 

SOURCE Transportation Safety Board of Canada

For further information: Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Media Relations, 819-994-8053, media@tsb.gc.ca

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