Fatal collision was avoidable

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THE inquest into a collision between a North Sea ferry and an Eyemouth prawn trawler which led to the death of teenager Daniel McNeill has found that both vessels could have taken steps to avoid the tragic incident.

Sixteen year old Daniel went missing after ‘The Homeland’, the boat he and his brother Joseph were fishing on, collided with the Scottish Viking ferry four and a half miles off St Abbs on August 5 last year.

Joseph managed to swim to a liferaft of another vessel and an extensive search for Daniel took place, involving lifeboats from Eyemouth, St Abbs, Dunbar and Berwick, a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer and a fleet of local fishing boats, but unfortunately this was to no avail and his body was eventually recovered from the sea in November.

Eight months on from the fatal collision, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has now published the results of its inquiry into the incident.

And investigators suggest that the crew of both ‘The Homeland’ and the Viking could have done more to prevent their vessels coming together.

Among the main reasons highlighted for causing the collision were the Scottish Viking watchkeeper’s failure to: determine at an early stage if there was a risk of collision with Homeland; sufficiently monitor or plot Homeland’s track; and, once a risk of collision was deemed to exist, take sufficient action to avoid collision.

And the investigation also found ‘The Homeland’s’ watchkeeper at fault for not determining at an early stage if there was a risk of collision with the Zeebrugge-bound Scottish Viking; not maintaining a proper lookout from the wheelhouse or detecting or recognising a risk of a crash with the ferry before it was too late to take effective action.

Other contributing factors identified in the MAIB’s investigation included the Scottish Viking crew’s ‘complacency and lack of precautionary thought’ and an ineffective implementation of the company’s navigation policy and procedures.

In the months following the incident, the manager of Scottish Viking implemented a number of actions aimed at improving the performance of the company’s bridge team.

These include: reiterating the importance of following the company’s navigational procedures; introducing a procedure for masters to report on the competence of a newly joined officer and carrying out unscheduled navigational audits at sea.

On the part of ‘The Homeland’, the investigation also pinpointed restricted all-round visibility from the aft deck; conflicting task priorities and possible lack of watchkeeping as possible catalysts for the collision which shocked the Berwickshire fishing fraternity.

Crucially, neither Daniel or Joseph, who both managed to clamber onto ‘The Homeland’s’ wheelhouse roof after the collision, were wearing lifejackets and tragically the vessel sank before the brothers could deploy its liferaft.

The MAIB has since published a safety flyer highlighting the tragedy and stressing the importance of fishermen wearing lifejackets while at sea.

Once again offering his condolences to Daniel’s family, Superintendent of Eyemouth Fishermen’s Mission, George Shaw said the risk fishermen take when they go out to sea was often underestimated.

He commented; “We are thinking deeply about Daniel’s family at this time.

“We know that the statistics speak of 60 fishermen lost or seriously injured each year somewhere in our British waters but we think that it doesn’t effect us in our area but Daniel’s story shows that it can all too easily.

“We know that wounds are open again for the family and we at the Mission are praying for them that they will know a deep peace at this time amidst their pain.”