MAIB releases report into fatal accident on workboat

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report into the fatal accident of a fish farm worker involving the workboat Beinn Na Caillich.

On 18 February 2020, the Ardintoul fish farm assistant manager drowned after falling from a feed barge access ladder during a boat transfer. He stepped from the deck onto the ladder while Beinn Na Caillich was still moving forward and was crushed between the boat and the barge.

A fish farm technician on board the barge attempted to stop the injured assistant manager from falling in the water by holding onto the back of his personal flotation device and oilskin jacket, but the severely injured casualty slipped out of them. Despite the assistant manager being recovered from the water and the determined efforts of the fish farm workers, emergency services, and medical staff, he could not be resuscitated.

MAIB’s report includes a harrowing narrative of the incident.

‘The assistant manager asked Beinn Na Caillich’s skipper to take him to the barge so that he could eat his lunch.

‘During the short passage from cage 10 to the barge, the assistant manager joined Beinn Na Caillich’s skipper and Stolt Madah’s skipper on the bridge. The three men chatted but did not discuss the transfer to the barge. The two workboat deckhands, unaware that the transfer was about to take place, remained in the galley.

‘As Beinn Na Caillich approached the barge, the assistant manager left the bridge and went to the starboard side of the deck and stood by the open forward bulwark gate. Beinn Na Caillich’s skipper engaged astern propulsion to slow the vessel as it approached the barge. His intention was to align the forward bulwark gate with the barge access ladder and ensure that the vessel was stationary before instructing the assistant manager to step across.

‘At about 15.10, with Beinn Na Caillich still moving slowly ahead, the assistant manager stepped through the open gate and on to the barge access ladder. Stolt Madah’s skipper saw this from the back of Beinn Na Caillich’s bridge and, realising the danger, shouted out in surprise. As he did so, Beinn Na Caillich’s bulwark gate post caught the assistant manager and crushed him against the barge ladder’s fender structure.

‘With the assistant manager holding on to the rungs of the ladder and shouting out in pain, Beinn Na Caillich’s skipper manoeuvred the workboat clear of the barge. Stolt Madah’s skipper ran down to the main deck, where he was joined by the two deck crew from the galley, who had heard the assistant manager’s shouts. The fish farm technician in the barge office also heard shouting and hurried to the top of the ladder.

‘The technician saw the assistant manager hanging from the ladder and grabbed hold of the strap at the back of his lifejacket. The assistant manager told the technician that he could not use or feel his legs. Shortly after, the assistant manager lost his grip on the ladder, slipped out of his lifejacket and oilskin coat, and fell 2.7m into the water. The technician was left holding the lifejacket and oilskin coat’.

MAIB’s investigation has concluded that the conduct of the boat transfer had not been properly planned or briefed and was not adequately supervised or controlled.

MAIB says that the transfer of personnel by workboat had not been properly risk assessed, and safe systems of work had not been put in place. The crew on board Beinn Na Caillich were not fully prepared to deal with the emergency situation. They had not conducted regular man-overboard recovery drills and were not familiar with the vessel’s recovery equipment. Additionally, the workboat and fish farm owner, Mowi (Scotland) Ltd, did not have an effective marine safety management system and lacked staff with the experience to oversee its marine operations.

Following this, MAIB has made recommendations to Mowi (Scotland) Ltd to apply the standards set out in the Workboat Code Edition 2 to all its existing workboats and, specifically, to fully implement a safety management system across its fleet, as well as ensuring that it has appropriate marine expertise to oversee its marine operations.