The tragic Nancy Glen fishing boat sank because a new crane on deck made it so unstable it couldn’t cope with its net filling with mud as it turned, a report has found.
Experts from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the horror sinking of the prawn trawler happened on its last trawl of the day near her home port.
The report, published today, also details the desperate battle for survival by John Miller, who tried to save his crewmates Duncan MacDougall and Przemek Krawczyk in vain.
As a result of the double fatality, the MAIB has made recommendations to introduce stability criteria for small vessels across the industry – which have been accepted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
Chief inspector of Marine Accidents Andrew Moll said: “The capsize and sinking of Nancy Glen, which resulted in the tragic loss of two respected Tarbert fishermen, has again demonstrated the consequences of not knowing how stable a boat is.
“Too many of the UK’s small fishing vessels have no baseline measure of their stability, so their operators cannot assess the effect of material modifications or changes to fishing methods.”
The chief inspector has also called for regular monitoring of new and existing vessels be introduce to assess their stability.
Skipper Mr MacDougall, 46, and crewman Mr Krawczyk, 38, both died in the tragedy in Lower Loch Fyne on January 18 last year.
Investigators state: “The MAIB’s investigation established that through life modifications to Nancy Glen, culminating in the replacement of the crane with a heavier model, had reduced the vessel’s stability, significantly increasing its vulnerability to capsize.
“Despite the skipper’s attempt to bring the situation under control, the combined effect of the increased towing load from the fouled net, the turn to starboard and the limited stability meant that Nancy Glen was unable to recover from the rapid heel to starboard.
“Nancy Glen’s stability was insufficient to overcome the predictable circumstances of a net filling with mud at the same time as the vessel was turning.”
Nancy Glen was built in 1991 and was under 40ft registered length. As a result, there was no mandatory requirement to conduct stability assessments at any point in the vessel’s life.
The report states: “Nevertheless, the potential for any modifications to a fishing vessel to affect its stability must be considered.”
The report also calls for vessel owners to contact the MCA in order to have modifications adequately assessed.
A MCA spokeswoman said: “A revised Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels is being developed with the involvement of the Fishing Industry Safety Group, which will address both the outstanding MAIB recommendations and the recommendations from this incident.
“Whilst this may not have changed the tragic outcome of this incident, we are determined that the continued work will lead to positive change within the industry and the MCA regards this as the highest priority.”
Elaine Whyte, executive secretary for Clyde Fishermen’s Association, said: “We will forever regret the tragic incident of the Nancy Glen’s loss.
“The MAIB report has suggested a number of changes to under 15 meters (50ft) fishing boats in moving forward which may help to improve safety.
“We will continue to be supportive of all efforts to improve the safety of all who go to sea.”
The Nancy Glen set sail from Tarbert Harbour around 10.30pm on January 17, with trawling commencing soon after.
Sunset on 18 January was at 4.26pm, and at about 5.50pm with the loch in darkness, the skipper, Duncan MacDougall, was at the wheel part-way through the last tow of the day.
He was turning Nancy Glen to starboard onto a southerly heading in preparation for hauling the nets prior to heading back to Tarbert.
The two crewmen, Przemek Krawczyk and John Miller, had completed washing down and tidying the deck and were in the accommodation waiting to be called to assist with the final haul.
Weather conditions were relatively benign, with calm sea and very little wind.
During the turn, Nancy Glen began to list to starboard. The list rapidly increased and caused loose items in the cabin to fall and the refrigerator door to fly open.
Initially, the two crewmen were unconcerned as the vessel normally listed during turns.
However, as it continued to increase, they became increasingly worried.
One of the crewmen shouted to his colleague to get out, then made his way up into the wheelhouse. There, he noted that the skipper was at the wheel and that the vessel was listing at such a severe angle that the main deck guardrails were starting to become immersed.
He heard the skipper shout that he did not know what was happening, with repeated calls to get off the vessel.
To escape from the wheelhouse Mr Miller had to climb over the trawl winch, travel along the main deck and climb onto the side of the net drum.
He then jumped off the net drum and over the stern into the sea and swam away from Nancy Glen to avoid becoming trapped.
Once aware that the vessel had not sunk, he began swimming back to the upturned hull to try to find his colleagues.
He attempted to inflate the liferaft but was unsuccessful.
A passing fish farm vessel came to Mr Miller’s aid after being picked up by its searchlight.
The vessel, alongside a huge search and rescue operation, searched for other survivors, before transferring Mr Miller to another vessel where he was taken ashore for medical treatment.
The bodies of Mr MacDougall and Mr Krawczyk were not recovered until a salvage operation took place on April 13 2018.
January 17 2018 – Nancy Glen departs Tarbert Harbour around 10.30pm
January 18 2018 – Disaster strikes as the vessels trailing nets become caught in mud, causing the vessel to capsize. One crewman, John Miller, rescued, with skipper Duncan MacDougall and crewman Przemek Krawczyk still missing
January 22 2018 – Mass fundraising by local community raises over £40,000 to help support the families, with calls made to salvage the vessel to bring the men home
February 7 2018 – Marine Accident Investigation Branch launches inquiry into the capsize and loss of the fishing vessel
February 12 2018 – Marine Accident Investigation Branch determines it will not recover the wreckage of the vessel
February 12 2018 – Scottish Government steps in and pledges to salvage vessel as fundraisers near the £300,000 mark
April 12 2018 – Salvage operation costing in the region of £1million is undertaken; both the bodies of Duncan MacDougall and Przemek Krawczyk are recovered
April 18 2018 – Funeral held in Tarbert for skipper Duncan MacDougall
April 21 2018 – Crewman Przemek Krawczyk laid to rest after service in the village of Tarbert
May 8 2018 – Criminal investigation launched by Crown Office into the deaths of the two fisherman
May 27 2019 – Crown Office drops criminal investigation into the incident based on the evidence available
May 29 2019 – Marine Accident Investigation Branch issues report where the instability of the vessel is cited as the cause of the capsizin