GRAYS HARBOR, Wash. (Canadian OH&S News)
Two fishing vessels, one Canadian and one American, came together in the Pacific Ocean, sending one ship to the ocean floor while crews struggled to save the crew from the doomed vessel.
At 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, the Viking Storm, an 80-foot-long Canadian vessel, was travelling south towards Washington to unload its catch in Grays Harbor when it collided with the 40-foot-long Maverick about 50 kilometres off the Washington coastline. The impact of the collision caused the smaller ship to roll and begin to sink.
The crew of the Canadian vessel managed to pull three of the four Maverick fishermen to safety. Unfortunately, “the fourth person, who is the son of the captain, went down with the ship,” said Bill Dutrizac, senior investigator for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada(TSB).
The board deployed a team of investigators to Ucluelet, B.C. to meet the Canadian fishing vessel.
The TSB has already interviewed the Canadian crews and will be speaking with the captain of the Maverick later this week, Dutrizac said, adding that investigators are trying to determine how the collision occurred when the Viking Storm is equipped with navigational equipment.
“They have two radars on board, two plotters. The Canadian ship has all kinds of navigational equipment; it was well-fitted out,” Dutrizac noted while acknowledging there was a heavy fog at the time that would have impaired visibility.
The TSB is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Dutrizac said a TSB representative has been in contact with the director of the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., though each agency is conducting its own independent investigations.
The investigation will look at factors that include the deck watch, the manning of the vessel and determining traffic conditions at the time of incident by confirming the vessel’s speed and course with data captured in the Automated Identification System (AIS). Dutrizac said that the Viking Storm is equipped with AIS, but the Maverick was not.
Boat impacts not common out on the water
Collisions at sea are, by and large, rare occurrences and “not considered a significant risk in commercial fishing in British Columbia,” said Gina McKay, Richmond, B.C.-based program manager with Fish SAFE BC, an industry-driven program for improving safety on board commercial fishing vessels.
“There’s not a lot of congestion, there’s not a lot of boats. So [collisions are] rare; we don’t even have a collision a year,” she said, noting that commercial fishing vessels are familiar with the area where they fish.
McKay said Fish SAFE BC has developed programs to address key fishing safety hazards, and capsizing and loss of life from falls overboard are the top two risk factors. Other hazards include weather, fatigue and a lack of understanding regarding the use of navigational equipment, such as when a new person is on board.
In April of this year, the TSB put out a news release noting that Canadian fishing vessels were involved in 36 per cent of shipping accidents in 2011, down from 42 per cent the year before, while noting that more still needs to be done to ensure those in the fishing industry “can, and will, work safely.” Last year also saw 12 recorded Canadian fishing fatalities, up one from the year before. The commercial fishing sector accounted for 10 of those.