Capsize and sinking of stern trawler Stella Maris

Location: 14 miles east of Sunderland, England

Accident Investigation Report 29/2015

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

MAIB investigation report 29-2015: Stella Maris

Annexes to MAIB investigation report 29-2015

Stella Maris at sea

Photograph courtesy of Jon Irwin


The 9.96m long fishing vessel Stella Maris capsized and sank on 28 July 2014 while attempting to lift a heavy cod end of fish and debris from a high, stern-mounted gantry sited above the vessel’s fish hopper and shelter deck. The skipper recognised that the weight of the cod end was excessive and attempted to lower it back into the sea but the netting became ensnared and the winch was unable to re-lift the cod end.

The vessel’s list continued to increase, causing the starboard quarter bulwark to become submerged, prompting the crew to abandon the vessel. The two men successfully launched and boarded their liferaft as Stella Maris sank and were rescued several hours later.

Chief Inspector’s statement

This investigation has once again identified the need for intact stability requirements applicable to under 15m fishing vessels. In this case the loss was limited to the vessel but the MAIB continues to investigate fatalities where the lack of stability was an underlying cause. Without stability requirements, owners and operators have no baseline against which to assess their operations, lifting capacity or planned modifications and so attempts to address this issue through education and guidance have proved unsuccessful. Many other nations have already recognised the need for mandatory intact stability requirements on their under 15m fleets and have had regulation in place for many years. This had led to the current situation where the UK has fallen well behind international best practice in this area. I fully recognise the difficulties involved in introducing new regulation to this sector. However, under 15m vessels make up nearly 90% of the UK’s fishing fleet so the scale of the population at risk makes effective and timely action necessary. Intact stability requirements for this sector are essential, and I am recommending today that these are introduced for new and substantially modified vessels.


The Marine Management Organisation is recommended (2015/168, 2015/169, 2015/170 and 2015/171) to improve its procedures for distribution of public funds.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is recommended (2015/165, 2015/166 and 2015/171) to introduce; intact stability criteria for all new and significantly modified decked fishing vessels of under 15m in length; and a revision to its guidance on the applicability to fishing vessels of PUWER and LOLER.

The Sea Fish Industry Authority is recommended (2015/167) to amend its small vessel construction standards to reduce the vulnerability of new vessels to downflooding when heeled.

A safety accident flyer highlighting a number of the safety issues was produced for this report.

Published 10 December 2015