Capsize and sinking of trawler Unity with loss of 1 life

Location: 1 mile north east of Portland Bill, England.

Completed PE Summary: Unity

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Registered Owner & Manager:   Mr J Bowman
Port of registry:   Ramsgate
Flag:   British
Type:   Fishing Vessel
Built:   1988
Construction:   GRP
Length overall:   9.76 metres
Gross tonnage:   9.40
Date & Time   13.12.2006 @ 1800UTC
Location of incident:   1.0’ north east of Portland Bill
Incident Type:   Capsize and founder
Persons onboard:   3
Injuries/ fatalities:   1 fatality
Damage/ Pollution:   Nil


At 1800UTC on 13 December 2006, the fishing vessel Unity capsized and foundered one mile north east of Portland Bill, as she was heading to the port of Weymouth for shelter and to undertake repairs. The weather at the time was strong south-westerly winds, a 2 knot tide setting south-west, and good visibility.

Water had been found leaking through the stern gland 4 hours before the accident, but a defective bilge pump meant that a deck hand had to manually bail the water from the engine compartment. On entering the Portland Races, a large wave struck the port quarter and heeled the vessel heavily onto her starboard side. The open engine compartment hatch immedately allowed the water to down-flood into the compartment, and the absence of any water tight bulkheads then allowed the water to penetrate the remaining compartments. The two deck hands escaped, but the skipper, who remained in the wheelhouse as the vessel capsized, was not found.

The vessel sank within two minutes of the wave strike. A new, 4 man, liferaft, complete with hydrostatic release unit, had been fitted to the wheelhouse roof. After the vessel sank, the liferaft floated free and the two deck hands who had earlier abandoned the vessel were able to take refuge in the raft. Prudent use of the red hand flares ensured their prompt rescue by the Weymouth lifeboat.

Published 23 January 2015