Disappearance and rescue of small fishing vessel Water-rail

Location: Found approximately 44nm offshore in the North Sea off Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Accident Investigation Report 3/2015

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

MAIB investigation report 3-2015: Water-rail

Photograph of fishing vessel Water-rail


MAIB report on the investigation of the disappearance and rescue of the small fishing vessel, Water-rail. It set out from Gourdon Harbour, Aberdeenshire early on the morning of 20 May 2014; however, soon after departure, the skipper was completely lost in fog. When the boat did not return as expected, the alarm was raised and an extensive search commenced, but after 2 days nothing had been found and the men’s family was informed that the boat and crew had probably been lost at sea. However, on the morning of 22 May 2014, Water-rail was found and the crew rescued by the deep-sea trawler, Sylvia Bowers.

The MAIB investigation found that the skipper of Water-rail did not have the equipment or competence necessary to navigate his vessel safely in the prevailing conditions and was also unable to broadcast a distress message as there was no electronic means of communication on board.

Key safety lessons include:

  • The importance of preparing for every voyage, particularly understanding the limitations of the vessel and crew as well as taking marine weather forecasts into account.

  • Ensuring carriage of appropriate safety equipment, in particular, the ability to broadcast distress.

Published 29 January 2015