Marine / Recommendation made to MCA as man overboard investigation concludes

AN INVESTIGATION into the fatal man overboard incident on a Shetland trawler in 2021 has resulted in a recommendation being made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to amend regulations around fishing boats having the means to recover an unconscious person from the water.

No recommendations have been made to the owners of the Copious, 60 North Fishing (Shetland) Ltd, in light of the actions they have taken.

Since the fatal accident the owners have brought in a replacement Copious, bought man overboard recovery equipment and upgraded lifejackets.

Edison Lacaste, 45, died in the early hours of 18 February 2021 when he fell overboard from the Copious LK985 while the vessel was trawling 30 miles southeast of Sumburgh.

The Filipino national lost his balance in swell whilst looking to carry out a repair to trawl gear. Although Lacaste was quickly brought alongside the vessel after falling into the sea, the crew’s attempts to recover him back on board were unsuccessful.

Edison (Joseph) Lacaste died when he fell overboard from the the Copious on 18 February 2021.

A fatal accident inquiry is expected to take place in court in October.

Since the incident the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has been undertaking its own investigation.

The MAIB’s report was published today (Thursday) and it said: “The deckhand fell overboard while standing on the aft bulwark as he was attempting a repair to the trawl gear.

“There was no attempt to stop and consider the repair and the activity was not effectively risk assessed or mitigated.

“He lost his life because he was not recovered back on board before succumbing to the effects of cold water incapacitation.

“When he lost consciousness in the water, his incorrectly worn lifejacket did not hold his airways clear of the water and he drowned. The man overboard recovery equipment on board Copious was not supplemented by the training and equipment necessary for the recovery of an unconscious person.”

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The report said the waist strap on the deckhand’s auto-inflate lifejacket was “very loose and the crotch strap, although fitted to the lifejacket, was taped up and unused, which was also the case for the other lifejackets found on board”.

“The incorrectly fitted lifejacket provided essential buoyancy in the early stages of the recovery attempt; however, the combination of the unworn crotch strap and loosely fitted waist strap allowed the lifejacket to ride up around the deckhand’s face as he fell unconscious and therefore failed to keep his airways clear of the water,” it added.

The fishing boat had six crew on board at the time of the accident.


In the conclusions the MAIB said that the deckhand’s decision-making is “likely to have been influenced by the unsafe and common practice of stepping onto the aft bulwark to reach the trawl door pennant, and his willingness to help resolve the situation”.

“It is possible that his decision-making was also impaired by sleep disruption and that the task was being undertaken during a window of circadian low,” it continued.

It ruled that the “safe recovery of the deckhand was highly unlikely without the immediate deployment of the Markusnet man overboard recovery system”.

But it said while the crew of Copious regularly carried out man overboard drills, “neither these nor the related onboard procedure sufficiently considered the recovery of an unconscious casualty from the water”.

The report highlights that since the accident the owners of Copious have replaced the vessel with a new, larger vessel incorporating upgraded safety features.


“They have also introduced an online safety management system including a risk-based approach to working practices on board, such as working at height,” it added.

“Additional man overboard equipment has been purchased that provides an efficient means of recovering an unconscious person and the crew have been provided with new, higher buoyancy inflatable lifejackets, as well as immersion suits for emergency use.”

It said that the MCA has amended its guidance to surveyors to consider the following during fishing vessel surveys and inspections:

  • The recovery of unconscious casualties in man overboard procedures and drills
  • The correct use of personal flotation devices, especially the use of crotch straps.
The Lerwick registered whitefish trawler Copious.

Since the accident the MAIB has issued a safety flyer to the fishing industry, while the MCA has published an amendment to introduce minimum acceptable performance levels for personal floatation devices on fishing boats.


LHD has also bought a man overboard mannequin which is kept in Lerwick for use by all fishing boats to add realism to man overboard drills.

Meanwhile the report said Lacaste had recently renewed his qualifications around personal survival techniques, firefighting, first aid and personal safety and social responsibility in Manila, Philippines.

In 2015, he also completed the Seafish safety awareness course at the fisheries college in Scalloway. He held additional qualifications in marine engineering and welding.

Thousands of pounds was raised for the fisherman’s family after the accident.

Sheila Keith, executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said in response to the report: “Firstly, our thoughts are with the family, colleagues and friends of Edison Lacaste who so sadly lost his life. In this industry, and this community, such a loss is never taken lightly.

“As a result, fishing crews in Shetland have not been idle during the 28 month wait between this tragedy taking place and today’s report being published.


“The SFA and other stakeholders came together as an industry to assess the lessons from this incident and implement safety reforms – something acknowledged by the MAIB report issuing no further safety recommendations.

“In the meantime, we are unable to say more due to the convening of a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the incident later this summer.”

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew member who died. We continue to work with the fishing community and other partners to improve safety and reduce the number of deaths in the industry.”

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