Fire and sinking of stern trawler Onward

Location: 60nm off the north coast of Scotland.

Accident Investigation Report 27/2012

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

Onward.pdf (797.31 kb)


Shortly after 1300 (UTC+1) on 11 April 2012, a fire was discovered on board the UK registered stern trawler Onward, 60nm off the north coast of Scotland. The vessel’s crew did not attempt to fight the fire and eventually abandoned the vessel and boarded a liferaft. They were rescued by a coastguard helicopter and there were no injuries.

Onward subsequently disappeared and is presumed to have foundered. No pollution has been reported.

Safety issues

  • the fire probably started in the engine room and that the spread of smoke inside the ship was assisted by several doors and hatches being left open
  • the fire detection system had not been tested for a considerable time and did not operate. Consequently, the fire was already well established by the time the crew were alerted
  • safety of the vessel was given insufficient priority by the crew. Their response to the fire reflected the absence of emergency drills on board and poor knowledge of the vessel’s systems and equipment


A recommendation (2012/150) has been made to Mithcowie Fishing Company Limited aimed at improving the safety of any vessels it may own in the future.

This report was published on 21 November 2012.

Published 23 January 2015