MAIB says Joanna C was “inherently vulnerable” to capsize that killed two

In its investigation into the capsize and sinking of the fishing vessel Joanna C (BM 265) with the loss of two lives, 5nm south of Newhaven, England on November 21st 2020, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that the Joanna C capsized because of insufficient stability to counter the effect of the whelk pots snagging during recovery of the full dredges.

The rapid nature of the capsize meant that the crew did not have time to operate the fishing gear quick releases, issue a distress signal or manually activate the EPIRB or liferaft.

Joanna C was inherently vulnerable to capsize as it had a low margin of positive stability and did not comply with the MSN 1871 criteria.

Post-accident analysis demonstrated that modifications to Joanna C between 1994 and 2019 had eroded the reserves of stability from exceeding the requirement to failing by a wide margin.

The opportunity to discover that Joanna C’s modifications had reduced the reserves of stability to an unacceptable condition was missed because there was no organizational process to assure satisfactory stability. Despite the involvement of three agencies: the owner, the regulator and a consultant naval architect, the 2019 inclining experiment was never followed up. This shortcoming went undetected because there was no mechanism to determine that the results of the inclining experiment had been analyzed by the naval architect, then understood by the owner and crew.

Joanna C’s liferaft did not inflate because it had insufficient buoyancy to overcome the force required for painter activation. This happened because there was no requirement for the liferaft to conform to any buoyancy standard; despite the requirement to be float free and to inflate automatically.

At about 05:15 on November 21st 2020 the scallop dredger Joanna C capsized and later sank south of Newhaven, England. Only one of the three crew survived.

Joanna C’s crew were hauling in the fishing gear when the starboard dredge became snagged on a line of whelk pots and the vessel capsized rapidly. The mate was on deck and was thrown into the water, but the skipper and deckhand were trapped inside the initially floating, inverted, hull. The skipper managed to escape and joined the mate in the water before the vessel sank with the deckhand still trapped inside. The skipper was recovered alive after about three hours in the water; the body of the trapped deckhand was recovered from the wreck by divers the next day and, on December 14th 2020 the missing mate’s body washed up on Bexhill beach.

A safety recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to ensure that stability requirements for small fishing vessels are applied as intended and that, where stability checks are required, fishing operations should be suspended until a vessel has been satisfactorily assessed.