B3/2011M F/V BALTIC (FIN) drifting to a shoal and evacuation on crew of the Estonian coast 4.10.2011

The Finnish flagged trawler BALTIC discharged her catch in Paldiski South Harbour on 4 October 2011. As soon as the catch was ashore, preparations were made for the voyage to Tallinn. The crew consisted of the master and a deckhand/motorman. Approximately half an hour after the vessel had left the port, the main engine halted, and the crew could not restart the engine despite a number of attempts. The anchor was dropped, but it dragged and the vessel drifted towards a shoal. The master called help from the nearby trawler MENHADEN which was her pair in trawling. The MENHADEN could not take the BALTIC into a tow, and the BALTIC drifted to the shallows. A distress alert was made. The JRCC Tallinn requested assistance in the rescue operation from Finnish Coast Guard. A Finnish Coast Guard helicopter airlifted the crewmembers, who were in good condition, and took them to Paldiski. The vessel was later towed off the shoal and repaired at the Pärnu dry dock.

The main engine of the vessel probably stopped because of a disturbance in the fuel inlet. The disturbance may have resulted from air entering the fuel manifold due to heavy sea. The fact that there was very little fuel in the tank has also acted as a contributing factor. Because there was air in the fuel manifold, the restarting of the main engine did not succeed. The prolonged attempts to restart the engine probably strained the start battery in such a way that one of the batteries was damaged. Starting the auxiliary engine of the vessel failed, too.

Anchoring the vessel failed because the anchor was lightly built and the securing of it to the trawl cable at the stern of the vessel was not appropriate for the intended use. When attempts were made to anchor the vessel, she had already drifted so close to the shoal that there was not enough space for proper anchoring. Therefore the vessel soon had a ground touching, and due to heavy sea started to list to its side on the shoal. Before the distress alert was raised, attempts were made for several hours to save the vessel through own resources with the assistance by the MENHADEN.

The accident vessel had undergone an intermediate survey approx. half a year before the accident, but the fact that the vessel’s anchor was not suitable for its use had not been noticed or entered in the survey protocol. There are no consistent and detailed survey check-lists that could be used to ensure the comprehensiveness of a survey.

In order to prevent similar accidents, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that:

  • One part of the surveys carried out by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency comprise of assessing the applicability of the equipment which is relevant with reference to safety and of entering the defects into the inspection and survey protocols.
  • The Finnish Transport Safety Agency create detailed check-lists to be used when surveying vessels.

B3/2011M Report (pdf, 0.85 Mt)

Published 23.8.2013