SIC - Orkney & Shetland valuation joint board

Marine / Report says no one was in the wheelhouse of grounded fishing boat

The Coelleira aground with Ve Skerries Light in the background

THE SPANISH flagship which ran aground on the Ve Skerries last summer was on a badly planned course with no one in the wheelhouse, the official report into the grounding says.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is critical of a range of operations on the 30m long-liner Coelleira when it ran aground on The Clubb doing 10 knots on 4 August.

Aside from the poor course, which had the 1970-built vessel following the Shetland coastline on her way to land at Scrabster, her position was not being closely monitored and an effective lookout not maintained.

The judgment and performance of the skipper may have been affected by fatigue and the navigation equipment set-up in the wheelhouse “adversely affected the skipper’s ability to monitor the vessel’s position and identify navigational hazards.”

The 15-strong crew managed to abandon ship safely and were rescued from liferafts by the Coastguard helicopter R900 about 3.14am, nearly two hours after the grounding. The Aith lifeboat had also arrived on scene by this time.

Later attempts to salvage Coelleira were unsuccessful and the vessel broke up and sank. The ship had been carrying about 15 tonnes of disel but there was “no significant fuel pollution”, though wreckage was reported strewn around some of the isles.

The Vessel’s route to the Ve Skerries.

The report says that after the ship packed up its catch and long-line gear about 18nm north of Yell Sound, the skipper was left alone on watch in the wheelhouse.

It adds: “The route from the fishing grounds to Scrabster was not plotted on paper charts or in the chart plotter. Instead, the skipper altered the vessel’s heading to follow the coastline, using the radar and chart plotter to keep clear of navigational hazards.

“Ve Skerries was possibly not displayed on the chart plotter due to the quality of the chart data, or detected by radar due to the range scale in use.

“The wheelhouse had been unattended for some time when the vessel grounded. During the passage, Coelleira’s skipper maintained the wheelhouse watch alone and it is possible that his level of arousal and awareness were reduced by fatigue due to a disrupted sleep pattern over the previous two weeks, and the time of the day.”

The MAIB made some recommendations to the Galicean owners of the Coelleira, Blue Pesca Ltd, that they “take steps to ensure that any vessel it may own in the future is navigated safely”; namely by following rest requirements and keeping a safe watch.