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Collision between fishing vessels blamed on fatigue

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

Fatigue and unfamiliarity with safety issues led to a collision between a Canadian and American fishing vessel off the coast of Washington in September 2012, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said in a newly released investigation report.

At about 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2012, the Canadian fishing vessel Viking Storm collided with the American fishing vessel Maverick in thick fog 30 nautical miles off La Push, Washington, the TSB report said. The Maverick capsized and sank from the impact; three of the four crew members survived and were rescued by the Viking Storm. The fourth crew member was never found and was presumed to have drowned.

The TSB investigation found that the Maverick had been drifting overnight without a crew member on lookout duty. In addition, the mate on the Viking Storm was not maintaining a proper watch to detect and mitigate the risk of collision and had left the wheelhouse unattended just prior to the collision.

“It is highly likely that the cognitive abilities of the mate on the Viking Storm were reduced due to fatigue resulting from a combination of acute sleep loss, continuous wakefulness and circadian rhythm timing,” the report added. In particular, the report noted that on the three nights before the occurrence, the mate had slept three hours, 4.5 hours and 3.5 hours respectively. As well, before the occurrence, he was awake for 19 of the preceding 22 hours with only a short rest period.

“Fishermen accept fatigue, mostly related to physical exertion and long work days, as a normal part of doing business,” the report said. “Although the crew on the Viking Storm indicated they had time to rest during extended harvesting periods, they did not demonstrate an understanding that consecutive hours of sleep, as opposed to rest, are required to restore the cognitive functions required to maintain a watch,” the report said, adding that there was no specific fatigue management plan in place onboard the vessel.

The TSB said that this accident illustrates how safety issues within the fishing community are complex and interrelated, as described in the board’s Safety Issues Investigation (SII) into Fishing Safety in Canada, released in June 2012. In the report, the TSB categorizes 10 significant safety issues, as well as the complex relationships and interdependencies among them. In this accident, the TSB noted, six of the 10 issues raised in the SII report were at play: fatigue; regulatory approach to safety; training; information distribution; cost of safety and unsafe work practices.

“Until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues within the fishing community is understood and addressed, the safety of fishermen will continue to be at risk, and remain on the TSB Safety Watchlist,” the board said.

Other findings include:

* The high-pressure sodium lights on the Viking Storm impaired the vision and ability of the deckhand on the Maverick to determine the vessel’s aspect, delaying the taking of evasive action;

* No sound signals were used by either vessel despite the restricted visibility in the hours leading up to the collision;

* Personnel on board the ships were well-experienced: the relief master on the Viking Storm had 26 years of fishing experience and the mate had 28 years of experience; the master of the Maverick had 46 years of fishing experience, including serving on the Maverick for the past 32 years; and

* If fishers equate resting with sleeping in terms of restorative capacity, there is a risk that they may underestimate the continuous hours of sleep necessary to restore their cognitive functions.

The report can be read at http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/marine/2012/M12F0011/M12F0011.asp.