B3/2004M Trawler SEA GULL, sinking on the Baltic Sea on 27.5.2004

The Finnish trawler SEA GULL (AAL-18) departed on May 21 2004 from the Danish port Neksö at Bornholm to fish sprats in the Swedish fishing zone in the Baltic Sea. Later the vessel moved to the Polish fishing zone. The fishing was done by a trawl. When the fishers in the evening of 26 May were lifting the last pull, the vessel suddenly got a starbord list and stayed in that position. The skipper ordered the crew to don immersions suits and to prepare the life-raft. There were attempts to straighten the vessel by pumping fuel to the other side of the vessel by pumping fish cargo into the sea, but without success. The Finnish trawler HELLE KRISTINA, which had been fishing nearby and had been summoned to help, tried to straighten the SEA GULL with the help of its trawl-winch. The life-raft was launched and part of the crew transferred to the HELLE KRISTINA. Despite the attempts to straighten the vessel, the list increased. In the morning of 27 May there were attempts to get the SEA GULL into the HELLE KRISTINA’s towage, but this did not succeed. At 8.30 the list of the SEA GULL suddenly increased and the vessel sank.

According to the board of investigation the accident was caused by the fish cargo becoming porridgelike, which resulted in a large free liquid surface, and the stability of the vessel was significantly reduced. At the same time the lift of the trawl-bag done at the final stage of fishing caused the vessel to list and the fish cargo started to shift over the longitudinal fish-bulkheads to the starboard side. The list quickly increased to approximately 45 degrees, after which the listing got slower. The bulkheads could also have been damaged when the fish shifted, which contributed to the course of events. The vessel slowly made water and in about 10 hours it finally lost its stability and capsized when the list had increased to 60-70 degrees.

The Investigation Board gives recommendations to the Finnish Maritime Administration on the improvement of fishing vessel inspections especially when it comes to factors influencing the vessels’ stability and to the updating of stability documents. Common recommendations are given to organisations and schools operating in the fishing trade and to the Finnish Maritime Administration on the development of the contents of fishing vessel stability documents to a more tangible form for fishermen and on studying how the special risk situations connected to sprat fishing could be controlled.

B3/2004M Report (pdf, 2.74 Mt)

Published 27.5.2004