Fishing boat accidents investigated in new NTSB report


Written by

Heather ervin

For the eighth year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its “Safer Seas 2020 Compendium, A compendium of NTSB marine accident investigations involving loss of life, injury and significant property damage completed in 2020.

The digest details the lessons learned from these accidents involving contact with stationary objects, shipwrecks, collisions, fires, explosions, floods, groundings and capsizes. Among the investigations included in the 112-page report is the fire on board the dive boat Design, where 34 lives were lost, and the collision that claimed 11 lives aboard the USS Fitzgerald.

“These tragedies remind us that whether we are serving in the country’s armed forces, scuba diving for recreation, fishing on a trawler, or supporting maritime commerce, we all depend on security measures that must be in place beforehand. to get on board, ”said NTSB President Jennifer Homendy. “Mariners can use the lessons learned in the Safer Seas Digest to prevent future accidents and owners and operators can use it to help ensure a culture of safety at sea.”

“With every investigation we learn new safety lessons to prevent or mitigate future losses, but it is only when marine stakeholders at all levels of the industry apply these lessons that marine safety improves,” Homendy said. “I hope the Safer Seas 2020 Compendium provides the shipping industry with essential information to better understand the security challenges it faces and the way forward to make shipping safer.

While the report examines all marine accidents, from inland towing to freighters, this article will focus on five notable fishing vessel incidents that occurred in 2019.

Crew fatigue is a major causal factor in fishing vessel accidents. The NTSB noted in the Digest that an effective way to prevent fatigue among crew members is for owners / operators to put measures in place to ensure crew members are given sufficient rest to perform properly navigation and surveillance tasks.

Misty blue

On December 4, 2017, the uninspected fishing vessel Misty blue was harvesting clams 9 miles southeast of Nantucket, Mass. when the port clam tank began to flood and the vessel then capsized and sank. Two crew members were trapped on board and perished when the vessel sank; the other two crew members managed to escape and were rescued by a nearby fishing boat. Oil reflections were observed.

According to the digest, the probable cause of the capsizing and sinking of the 69-footer Misty blue was the flooding of the port clam tank from an unspecified point of entry, resulting in a decrease in the freeboard and a list to trap the boarding sea on the deck, thus reducing the vessel stability. The ship’s relatively small discharge port area likely contributed to the sinking, which likely increased the accumulation of water on the deck.

American Eagle and Koorale

Commercial fishing boats American eagle and Koorale were fishing in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,475 miles northeast of American Samoa on June 17, 2019. While chasing the same school of tuna, the two vessels collided. Both ships sustained damage but were able to return to port.

No pollution or injury for the 33 crew members aboard the 258.4-foot American eagle or the 19 aboard the 182.1 feet Koorale have been reported. Damage to the ships was estimated at $ 8.3 million.

The probable cause of the collision between the fishing vessels American eagle and Koorale was that captains and captains of ships were not following international collision regulations or communicating to make arrangements while pursuing the same school of fish, according to the NTSB.


The 50 feet Ariel was passing through Sheep Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska on August 26, 2019, when a fire broke out in the ship’s engine room. The four crew members aboard the Ariel attempted to fight the blaze, but failed and abandoned the ship in the ship’s skiff.

According to the summary, the Ariel continued to burn and subsequently sank. The crew were rescued by nearby ships and returned to port unharmed. About 500 gallons of diesel fuel were on board the vessel when it sank. The Ariel, valued at around $ 600,000, was a total loss.

The digest indicates that the probable cause of the fire on board the fishing vessel Ariel was the ignition of a fuel leak from the generator fuel supply line in the engine room. Fixed air intakes for engine room ventilation, which allowed fire extinguishing agent to escape and air to enter the space, contributed to gravity of the fire and the possible loss of the vessel.

Pacific 1

On February 15, 2019, the 57.8-foot Pacific 1 was engaged in the cod fishery in the Bering Sea near Kashega Bay on Unalaska Island, Alaska when the vessel began to take on the water aft.

The five crew members abandoned the ship and were rescued by the neighboring ship Kona Kai. No crew member was injured in the accident, and an oil burst was reported. The ship sank and was considered a total implied loss, estimated at $ 720,000.

The probable cause of the sinking of the fishing boat Pacific 1 was the captain’s decision to stay at sea with continued flooding in the galley from an undetermined source, which accelerated and eventually led to gradual flooding.


The 58 feet Freyja was fishing with a longline in the Bering Sea near Point Tebenkof, Unalaska Island, Alaska on March 9, 2019, when the vessel ran aground and was stranded on the rocks.

The NTSB said in the digest that the ship’s four crew members abandoned the boat and swam to a nearby vessel. The vessel was considered a total loss, with damage estimated at $ 550,000. There were no reports of injuries or pollution.

The probable cause of the grounding of the fishing boat Freyja was the inability of the watchman to monitor the course of the vessel due to falling asleep due to an accumulated sleep deficit and the vessel owner’s lack of countermeasures to alleviate crew member fatigue.