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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The safety of fishermen will be compromised until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues is recognized and addressed by the fishing community.
It was the practice for all crew members to be on deck during fishing operations, leaving safety-critical positions such as the wheelhouse unattended.
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.
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.
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.