The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published its report on the investigation of the fatal loss over board of 36 year old fisherman Gary Forbes from the fishing vessel Barnacle III west of Tanera Beg. In analysing some of the factors that led to the incident, there are parallels that can be drawn with the large yacht world, and the report highlights some particular safety concerns that could be related back to superyacht operations. By sharing these ‘lessons to be learned’, MAIB hopes to encourage a better safety culture across the whole maritime industry.

As the report states, on 13 May 2014 crewmember Gary Forbes was dragged over board and underwater from the 11.35m fishing vessel as the vessel was shooting the second of two fleets of creels on the west coast of Scotland. Forbes surfaced a short while later, face down, about 50m from the boat. He was not wearing a personal floatation device and despite being quickly recovered on board by the skipper, who then administered CPR, Forbes did not survive.

The MAIB investigation concluded that Forbes’ right leg probably became caught in the buoy line as he was walking the fleet’s end weight towards the vessel’s stern, or shortly afterwards. Although the skipper had carried out a risk assessment for the vessel’s normal shooting operation, this had not been documented. Further, he had made insufficient changes to the system of work to adequately control the additional risks posed when working two fleets of creels on deck.

“Formal risk assessment is sometimes seen as a burden to fisherman as it is to our own colleagues in the large yacht sector."

“These reports never make comfortable reading and are a salutary reminder of the hard work and raw conditions our fellow seafarers in the fishing industry face every day,” says Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts, commenting on the report’s findings. “We try and identify synergies with our own sector and again are reminded of the need for personal floatation devices to be worn when involved in operations which could involve risk of being pulled overboard or working unsupervised.”

McCourt believes in the importance for the industry should be constantly looking at incidents elsewhere in the maritime world in order to avoid similar situations, and as such regularly circulates these safety bulletins amongst the Watkins’ fleet and other interested parties. “Formal risk assessment is sometimes seen as a burden to fisherman as it is to our own colleagues in the large yacht sector, nevertheless such an exercise could have rescued the exposure profile to this unfortunate young man,” he adds. “We would be happy to assist any of our readers in formal risk assessment – which does not need to be a heavily bureaucratic process.”

The full MAIB report can be read here.

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