Capsize and sinking of fishing vessel Solstice with loss of 1 life

Location: Approximately 7 miles south of Plymouth, England.

Accident Investigation Report 20/2018

Investigation report into marine accident including what happened, safety lessons learned and recommendations:

MAIB investigation report 20-2018: Solstice

Annexes to MAIB investigation report 20-2018: Solstice

Fishing vessel Solstice
Upturned hull of fishing vessel Solstice


At 1938 on 26 September 2017, the 9.9m fishing vessel Solstice capsized in calm weather conditions about 7 miles south of Plymouth. The skipper and crewman were rescued from the vessel’s upturned hull about 5½ hours later, but the vessel’s owner was trapped and drowned in the wheelhouse. Solstice later sank.

The scallop dredger had recently been modified to operate as a stern trawler and its owner, skipper and crewman were in the process of hauling a heavy catch on board when the capsize occurred. The net’s cod-end was full of fish, moss and sand, and started to roll uncontrollably along the transom as the vessel heeled in the light swell.

The crew did not have time to raise the alarm before they entered the water. As the vessel was not equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and the crew did not carry Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), they were wholly reliant on family and friends realising they were overdue and alerting the coastguard.

Safety lessons

  • the crew had no stability information for Solstice and did not fully appreciate the risk of capsize. Vessel owners should always ensure that stability assessments are carried out before and after any modifications are undertaken

  • the weight in Solstice’s net was clearly excessive. In such circumstances, action should be taken to reduce the loads being lifted on board

  • take the search out of search and rescue; fit an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and carry an EPIRB and/or PLBs. They can be life savers

  • personal flotation devices should always be worn when working on deck and emergency use lifejackets should be readily available

A statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents can be found here.


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended (2018/132 and 2018/133) to conduct an impact assessment to determine the effectiveness of the actions the organisation has taken, as a result of the lessons learned from the Solstice investigation, to improve its network operations.

A safety flyer to the fishing industry highlighting a number of the safety lessons was produced for this report.

Published 6 December 2018