B1/2000M F/v KINGSTON, sinking of the vessel and loss of the crew of four in the Gulf of Bothnia February 24 to 25 2000
The Finnish trawler KINGSTON (FIN 1102 U) departed February 23rd 2000 from the Finnish fishing port Laupunen to fish in the Finngrundet area in the Swedish fishing zone in the Gulf of Bothnia. From the noon of 24th the weather started to deteriorate and in the evening the wind speed has been estimated to have been 20 m/s in the area. The KINGSTON was due back to Laupunen on 25th. She did not come back.
The owner of the vessel made in the morning of February 25th an announcement of the missing vessel to the MRCC Turku. MRCC initiated the search for the vessel and radioed at 11.20 the alert message (Pan Pan) in the international emergency frequencies. Both Finnish and Swedish aircrafts participated in the search and Swedish Coast Guard vessels were also alerted.
A cargo vessel observed already in the morning an oil slick east of Finngrundet and later the Swedish Coast Guard informed that oil had been observed in two places in the search area. Also a Finnish rescue helicopter observed diesel oil ascending to sea surface. In the afternoon at half past three a Russian cargo vessel observed two drifting life rafts. The other of the rafts was upside down. The rafts were found to be empty and they were lifted onboard the vessel. From the markings on the rafts it became apparent that they were from KINGSTON. Later in the evening it was concluded that the probability of finding the crew alive was small and at 22.30 the search was terminated.
The rescue co-ordination was shifted to MRCC Gothenburg due to the search area being in the Swedish side of the gulf. Early in the evening MRCC Gothenburg started preparations for a diving operation using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from a Swedish Coast Guard vessel in the search area. In the evening the ROV was moved by a military helicopter to the patrol vessel. The patrol vessel navigated to the position where oil was coming to the surface. The patrol vessel informed at 03.38 that KINGSTON had been recognised at the sea bottom. The depth at the position of the wreck is about 80 metres. The wreck was filmed immediately after its finding and later early in the summer.
It was found out in the accident investigation that the stability of KINGSTON was insufficient. The sinking took place during hoisting the catch onboard in bad weather. In the hoisting situation augmented by the effect of the waves the heeling angle exceeded 18–20 degrees, which is the flooding angle. The vessel was flooded through open hatches and it sank. The time of the accident has been estimated to be at about four o’clock in the afternoon, February 24th. This estimate is based on drifting calculations of the found life rafts and other items.
KINGSTON had been purchased to Finland only two months earlier. Contributing factors to the sinking were both the conversions made in Sweden and equipment installations to upper decks and locations high in the superstructure in Helsinki before the start of the fishing. All these deteriorated the stability of the vessel. Not all of the fishing gear or ship equipment was functioning properly. The crew did not know well the vessel behaviour in fishing conditions.