Collision between prawn trawlers Sapphire II and Silver Chord, resulting in Sapphire II sinking

Location: Off Stornoway, Scotland.

Accident Investigation Report 21/2011

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken, and recommendations:

SapphireSilverChordReport.pdf (1,558.40 kb)


At 1840 on 12 January 2011, the 16.84m prawn trawler Silver Chord collided with the 14.99m prawn trawler Sapphire II. At the time of the collision, Sapphire II was stopped in the water while her skipper, who was operating single-handed, recovered the vessel’s fishing gear. Silver Chord was making 5.5 knots (kts) as she proceeded towards Stornoway after a day’s fishing. Sapphire II’s hull was penetrated, and the fish hold quickly started to flood. Her skipper reported the accident to the coastguard and transferred to Silver Chord before Sapphire II sank at about 1850. Silver Chord was also damaged but was able to return to Stornoway under her own power. There were no injuries.

Safety Issues

  • Neither skipper was aware of the proximity of the other vessel despite both vessels displaying navigation lights and deck floodlights, and both vessels being equipped with working radar displays
  • Silver Chord’s wheelhouse was left unattended for substantial periods of time before the accident while her skipper and crew worked in a fully enclosed shelter
  • The visibility ahead from Silver Chord’s wheelhouse was impaired by the vessel’s shelter and deck fittings
  • Sapphire II’s skipper had been focused on recovering the fishing gear. His view from the aft working deck was obstructed by the vessel’s accommodation and wheelhouse, which prevented him from maintaining a proper and effective lookout. The single-handed operation of Sapphire II was therefore inherently unsafe


Recommendations have been made to the MCA aimed at ensuring that all vessels are sufficiently manned to ensure their safe operation, and that the current requirements for the visibility from fishing vessels’ wheelhouses are met. Recommendations have also been made to the owner/skippers of Silver Chord and Sapphire II which are intended to improve the safe operation of their vessels in the future.

This report was published on 13 October 2011.

Updates to this page

Published 23 January 2015