Investigators have found a dredger that flooded while towing a barge off the Highland coast was unfit for the job.
The Shearwater, which was previously owned by Moray Council, was hauling the unmanned vessel Agem One near Kinlochbervie in April last year.
However, the dredger, now owned by Northern Dredging, became immobilised after its propeller shafts got tangled on its own towline.
The two vessels then collided repeatedly, which caused the Shearwater to sustain damage and begin taking on water.
‘Crew did not have necessary competence’
The Marine and Rail Accident Investigation Branches (MAIB) has now concluded a report into the incident.
They have found that the barge Agem One drifted away from the dredger following the incident, which happened at about 8pm.
The investigation has found the crew encountered a “significant swell”, which made the tow untenable and fail.
A decision was made to abort the sailing and seek passage at Kinlochbervie but during the voyage the towline because trapped around Shearwater’s propeller shaft.
The situation was brought under control with the intervention of the Lochinver lifeboat, the emergency towing vessel Ievoli Black and the workboat Forth Drummer.
MAIB investigators have concluded the accident occurred due to “insufficient planning” while the Shearwater was not suitable to be used for towing, especially through hazardous areas.
It was also found the crew “did not have the necessary competence” for the operation with no tow master on duty.
Since the incident, Northern Dredging has purchased a small tug for use when repositioning barges.
However, recommendations have been made by the MAIB to the firm to assess all on-board hazards and provide safe systems of work.
The Coastguard has also been recommended to ensure that when certification is granted for exemptions from load line regulations it should include conditions and limitations appropriate to the vessel.
There were no injuries or pollution as a result of the Shearwater incident.
The Shearwater was sold by Moray Council in 2012 after about 40 years of service amid concerns about mounting maintenance bills.
However, it has remained in service under its new ownership.