Fishing tragedy sheriff calls for stability training

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The loss of two fishermen with the Nancy Glen four years ago shocked the community – but there is hope similar future tragedies might be avoided as an inquiry concluded into the sinking.

Sheriff Patrick Hughes concluded a Fatal Accident Inquiry at Oban Sheriff Court by recommending mandatory training on vessel stability for skippers on boats of this kind.

Skipper Duncan MacDougall, 46, and Przemek Krawczyk, aged 38, were on board Tarbert prawn trawler Nancy Glen – built in 1991 and owned by the MacDougall family since 1995 – when it capsized and sank one and a half miles north-east of Barmore Island on Loch Fyne on the evening of January 18, 2018.

The boat heeled over when one of her nets became embedded in seafloor mud as Mr MacDougall, an experienced skipper, turned to starboard ready for hauling the nets at around 6pm. By 8.30pm the boat had sunk despite heroic efforts to save her and the two men inside.

A third crewman, John Miller, survived and was rescued by a passing vessel.

In his determination, Sheriff Patrick Hughes said the Nancy Glen ‘lacked the stability to withstand’ the ‘muddying’ of the nets after a number of modifications made in the years previously.

Sheriff Hughes added that had professional advice been taken before some of the vessel’s concrete ballast was removed in 2002 and 2016 and further modifications were made in December 2017 – including the fitting of a larger crane – the accident ‘might’ have been avoided.

Another factor in reducing the boat’s stability was, said the Sheriff, the practice of storing catch in tanks on the main deck and shelter deck, raising the centre of gravity.

A critical point, however, was the fact that until recently no mandatory stability criteria were applicable to fishing vessels of the Nancy Glen’s size – registered length 11.98 metres – and masters are not required to undergo stability awareness training.

The sheriff recommended stability awareness training be made mandatory for masters of fishing vessels of between seven and 16 metres in length.

Sheriff Hughes added: ‘I consider that the loss of the Nancy Glen should not be seen as an isolated incident, but rather as part of a wider pattern of small fishing vessels being lost in circumstances where inadequate stability plays a prominent role.

‘The evidence before this inquiry showed the MacDougall family to be good employers who took pride in their vessel and kept it well maintained. When making the various modifications described to the Nancy Glen, they did not understand themselves to be placing the vessel in danger. They considered it to be a safe boat, an assessment which was based on how it felt to them.’

He went on to pay tribute to the ‘courage and resourcefulness’ of those who attended the stricken vessel; to John Miller for reliving the experience in his evidence and to the community for the compassion shown to the grieving families.

Sheriff Hughes expressed condolences to both families.