The National Transportation Safety Board issued seven safety recommendations Tuesday during a public board meeting held to determine the probable cause of the fatal, Dec. 31, 2019, the sinking of the fishing vessel Scandies Rose.
The Scandies Rose sank 2.5 miles south of Sutwik Island, Alaska. The vessel was en route from Kodiak, Alaska, to fishing grounds in the Bering Sea when it capsized and sank. The Scandies Rose had seven crew members aboard, two were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and five others were never found.
The Scandies Rose likely accumulated between 6 and 15 inches of ice on surfaces exposed to wind and icing during the accident voyage, NTSB investigators found. The added weight from ice accumulating asymmetrically on the vessel and the stacked crab pots on the deck, raised the Scandies Rose’s centre of gravity, reducing its stability and contributing to the capsizing.
Although the crew loaded the Scandies Rose per the stability instructions on board, the instructions were inaccurate and as a result, the vessel did not meet regulatory stability criteria and was more susceptible to capsizing.
The NTSB determined the probable cause was the inaccurate stability instructions for the vessel, which resulted in a low margin of stability to resist capsizing, combined with the heavy asymmetric ice accumulation on the vessel due to conditions more extreme than forecasted.
The NTSB identified the following safety issues during its investigation:
- the effect of extreme icing conditions
- lack of accurate weather data for the accident area
- the vessel’s inaccurate stability instructions
- the need to update regulatory guidelines on calculating and communicating icing for vessel stability instructions.
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued four recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, one recommendation to the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association, one to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one to the National Weather Service. The NTSB also reiterated two safety recommendations previously issued to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The safety recommendations seek more accurate stability instructions that realistically consider the effect of icing on crab pots and crab pot stacks, making the Ocean Prediction Center freezing spray website operational and requiring personal locator beacons for every member of a vessel’s crew.
“Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in America, but it does not need to be,” said Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “The safety recommendations we issued and reiterated today if implemented, will make commercial fishing vessels safer and will help mitigate the risks fishermen face in this occupation.”
Icing continues to be a factor in accidents off the coast of Alaska. The NTSB issued Safety Alert 18-074 Ice Accumulation on June 20, 2018, reminding mariners to prepare for icing conditions and the actions to take to maintain vessel stability when icing occurs. The safety alert was issued following the NTSB’s investigation of the sinking of the fishing vessel Destination.
Improve Passenger and Fishing Vessel Safety is an item on the NTSB’s 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. Commercial fishing vessels, which remain largely uninspected, continue to be a marine sector of concern. New standards are needed to address intact stability, subdivision and watertight integrity in commercial fishing vessels up to 79 feet long. Many fishing crews aren’t trained instability management techniques or emergency response, and the NTSB has found that many vessels do not have proper life-saving equipment, such as flotation devices and operational search-and-rescue locator devices.