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Loss of fishing vessel, 23 December 2020

Status : Closed

On 23 December 2020, a Dutch fishing vessel UK-160 Riemda, sank off the French coast. All crew members survived the accident without serious injury.

While hauling in one of the fishing nets, the vessel suddenly heeled over to starboard. When checking the fishing nets, a crew member noticed that on the starboard side, the deck was one and a half metres under water, and the starboard bilge pump was not working. The pump turned out to be jammed by a piece of rope. Efforts to restart the bilge pump were unsuccessful. The crew tried to trim the vessel level in several different ways, but unsuccessfully. The vessel heeled ever further to starboard, at which point the fish waste discharge chute started to take on water. At a later stage, the hatch of this chute was closed, but despite these measures, the vessel continued to list ever further to starboard. When the angle of list to starboard reached more than 50 degrees, the engine room air inlet came under water, causing the stern part of the vessel to fill completely with water.

The crew members left the vessel, when the vessel was laying in the water, at an angle of list of 90 degrees. All crew members survived the accident without serious injury.

Failing bilge pump one of the causes of sinking vessel

The investigation proved that the direct cause of the loss of the UK-160 Riemda cannot be attributed to a single cause. It is certain that the initial cause was a considerable volume of excess water on the fish processing deck, which must have gradually accumulated. The investigation revealed no unequivocal cause for the way in which this volume of water found its way onto the fish processing deck, but in and of itself, this fact should never result in the loss of a vessel. The fact that the vessel was eventually lost was the result of a combination of multiple failing barriers. Specifically the following should be mentioned:

  1. A failing bilge pump and the fact that a backup bilge pump system was not continuously available.
  2. Failure of the general high-water sensor (fish processing deck).
  3. The leaving open of a closable fish waste discharge chute.
  4. The insufficient watertight integrity of the vessel.

A general conclusion is that the crew used every possibility available to prevent the loss of the vessel. However, it became clear that within the timeframe available, the situation gradually worsened, and that at a given moment, the situation became unsalvageable, without external assistance.


Based on the investigation into this occurrence, the Dutch Safety Board has issued the following recommendations:

To the owner VOF Brands

1. Consider the impact that interim structural changes to the ship design can have on the watertight integrity of the ship. Immediately report structural changes to the regulator.

To the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management

2. Tighten legislation regarding the water tightness of compartments where fish processing takes place, in order to prevent that flooding of such a compartment results into the loss of the watertight integrity of the other compartments.

3. Adjust regulations regarding the obligation to have a continuous back-up in the bilge systems in order to guarantee back-up in the event the vessel lists. In addition, guarantee by means of a Policy Rule / Technical Regulation that there is an adequate bridge alarm if a bilge pump fails.

To the Fisheries Sector Council and the international Fisheries sector organizations (Visplatform, Fishing Industry Safety Group, Confederación Española de Pesca, Europêche and Fishing Industry Safety & Health Platform)

4. Share the lessons from this investigation with the relevant parties in the national and international fishing and shipbuilding sector and in particular with the owners of comparable fishing vessels. Pay specific attention to

  1. Increasing the awareness regarding the risk of hull openings in watertight compartments.
  2. Providing an adequate, continuously available back-up of the lens systems, which will continue to function in case the fishing vessel lists.
  3. Maintaining sufficient stability when interim changes are made to the ship design.
  4. Taking into account possible safety risks that arise from adjustments to the ship design.



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