Three killed in boat capsizing off Welsh coast

An investigation into the sinking of a boat that killed three fishermen found that the ship was packed with wolves and fishing gear.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published its report into the Nicola Faith setting off the coast of Colwyn Bay. Crew members Carl McGrath (34), Ross Ballantyne (39) and Alan Minard (20) were on board when the boat went missing on January 27 last year. Their bodies were found on the banks of the Viral in March 2021.

The report found that the whey potter vessel was “extensively modified” and had “significantly reduced its margin of positive stability” before sinking under two miles north of Ross-on-Sea. The MAIB wrote: “On the day of the accident Nikola Faith was loaded with catching and retrieving vessel strings to the point of instability, which resulted in the vessel being reshaped and subsequently sunk.”

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The investigation found that Nicola Faith was operated “insecurely”, was not fitted with a mandatory emergency beacon, and was not reported as overdue until the next day. The crew were not equipped with personal locator beacons. Although personal flotation devices were on board, the crew did not “regularly” wear them.

The MAIB said: “Some modifications were noted by Marine and Coast Guard agency surveyors. However, the guidance regarding the modifications to trigger the stability assessment was not sufficiently clear.”

The giant crane used to lift Nikola Faith out of the sea
(image: MAIB)

Its report recommended that the Maritime and Coast Guard agency revise the words in its code of practice from “catch limit” to “load limit”. The MAIB also said that the agency should “review and enhance” surveyors what level of revision should initiate further investigation into the vessel’s stability.

And the report also said that the boat owner, Big Ship Ltd., “must ensure that there is a written agreement in place to identify the organization or person responsible for the operation of any vessel.”

Chief Inspector Andrew Moll said: “Yesterday we published our report on the damage Joanna Q [near Newhaven], and are today publishing a report on the loss of Nicola Faith. Both were small fishing vessels that capsized while working fishing gear and together, tragically, they lost five lives. There are important lessons about sustainability from these accidents that all small fishing boat operators should understand and apply.”

He continued: “Nicola Faith was modified, and the revision was not approved. Nevertheless, the vessel could be operated safely with caution. On the day of the accident, the crew moved their vessels to a new area.” and was carrying a full day’s catch as well. The combined weight of the catch and fishing gear piled on the deck far exceeded the weight the boat was designed to carry; it capsized, and all three drivers The crew got lost in that accident. Fishermen will always be tempted to land a large catch but at the same time it can be overwhelming to move the fishing gear.

“As fuel prices rise, the temptation to carry more and take fewer trips makes economic sense, but where sustainability is concerned the consequences can be disastrous. These two accidents have shattered the lives of five families, including Both were completely avoidable. I have this simple message to all fishing crews: Safety begins with good stability; Know the limits of your boat and work within them.” You can read more stories from North Meczyki here.

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