Fa­tal trawler sink­ing probed

Ju­bilee cap­sized in 2015, killing three — it was likely hose left on, flood­ing fish room

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Kurt Bayer

The likely cause of a trawler cap­siz­ing and sink­ing off the Can­ter­bury coast with the loss of all three fish­er­men aboard had hap­pened on a pre­vi­ous fish­ing trip just days ear­lier, it’s been re­vealed.

The 90-tonne, 16m Ju­bilee sank 22km off the Rakaia River­mouth after send­ing a dis­tress sig­nal early on Oc­to­ber 18, 2015.

All three ex­pe­ri­enced fish­er­men on board — Jared Reese Hus­band, 47, of Ti­maru, skip­per Paul Rus­sell Ben­nett, 35, of Motueka, and 55-yearold Terry Don­ald Booth also from the Nelson re­gion — died.

A Trans­port Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion (TAIC) probe con­cluded the sink­ing was likely caused by a hose left run­ning — and that the men had been trapped in­side the wheel­house with­out any es­cape route.

Now, it’s been re­vealed that on an Oc­to­ber 9-15 trip, just days before the fa­tal sink­ing — dis­as­ter was nar­rowly averted.

According to court doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Her­ald on Sun­day, the fish room had flooded when a hose was ac­ci­den­tally left on.

How­ever, the hose was dis­cov­ered and it took crew “some time to clear the fish room”.

The room only had one pump — which had no alarm to alert crew mem­bers to flood­ing — and was known to block with fish scales, re­quir­ing reg­u­lar clean­ing.

“The ves­sel was ob­served as be­ing no­tice­ably lower in the stern with the wa­ter in the fish room,” says a doc­u­ment in the Mar­itime New Zealand case against the Ju­bilee’s op­er­a­tors, Ocean Fish­eries.

The Lyt­tel­ton-based com­pany, where An­drew Stark is the chief ex­ec­u­tive, has pleaded guilty to one charge, laid un­der the Health and Safety in Em­ploy­ment Act 1992, of fail­ing to en­sure that no con­trac­tor was harmed while work­ing. The charge car­ries a max­i­mum penalty of $250,000 and the com­pany will be sen­tenced next month.

Since the triple tragedy, Stark’s com­pa­nies have in­tro­duced a range of safety mea­sures to its fleet, in­clud­ing a sec­ond pump and two high wa­ter alarm sys­tems in the fish room of another of its boats, Legacy. An ad­di­tional es­cape from the wheel­house has been added along with a Per­spex hatch, a life raft light, and a light to show if the load­ing hatch is open or shut.

Mar­itime NZ has also said Stark’s com­pa­nies have un­der­gone “a sig­nif­i­cant over­haul of their health and safety prac­tices”.

Stark told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that after the Ju­bilee’s sink­ing, they had “racked their brains” to work out how it sunk and “any­thing they thought might be con­trib­u­tory they have dou­bled it”.

In April 2017, TAIC rec­om­mended that Mar­itime NZ tell ves­sel own­ers the ben­e­fits of in­stalling crew alerts for any ab­nor­mal rises in wa­ter lev­els in com­part­ments, par­tic­u­larly ones that com­pro­mise buoy­ancy or sta­bil­ity.

TAIC also is­sued key lessons from the tragedy, in­clud­ing the need for vig­i­lant watch­keep­ing, es­pe­cially around the state of trim and sta­bil­ity, and a risk-based ap­proach to es­cape routes.

Sev­eral days after the sink­ing, the three bod­ies of the fish­er­men were re­cov­ered from the wheel­house by Navy divers. None were wear­ing life­jack­ets.

The Ju­bilee wreck has never been re­cov­ered from the seabed.

The ves­sel was. . . no­tice­ably lower in the stern with the wa­ter in the fish room. Case doc­u­ment

Ju­bilee cap­sized in 2015.

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