Grounding of crabber Horizon

Location: Near Saldanha Head, Lough Swilly, Republic of Ireland.

Completed PE Summary: Horizon

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Vessel name:   Horizon
Ship Owner:   Freal Fishing Ltd
Port of Registry:   Belfast
Flag:   UK
Type:   Crabber
Built:   2003
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   14.95
Gross tonnage:   41.55
Date & Time:   4 March 2008 - 0326 UTC
Location of incident:   Near Saldanha Head, Lough Swilly, Ireland
Incident Type:   Grounding
Persons onboard:   7
Injuries/fatalities:   None
Damage/pollution:   Constructive total loss - pollution


At about 2200 on 3 March 2008, the fishing vessel Horizon left the pier at Rathmullan, Lough Swilly. Because the weather was near gale force and the pier in Rathmullan was exposed to swell, the skipper had decided to dodge in the northern part of the lough until the weather abated.

At about 0200 on 4 March, one of the deckhands took over the navigational watch. The skipper had drawn a box on the electronic chart, within which the watchkeeper was required to keep the vessel. The watch alarm was operational and the engine was set at the minimum speed to maintain steerage. When the vessel reached the southern part of the box, the watchkeeper is reported to have dialled a new course into the automatic helm with the intention of turning the vessel onto a northerly heading. He then left the wheelhouse unattended and went to the galley to make a cup of tea and a sandwich, returning briefly to cancel the watch alarm.

The vessel ran aground under a cliff face in a position to the south of the box marked on the electronic chart. The skipper broadcast a MAYDAY to which Malin Head MRSC responded. Two lifeboats were launched but they were unable to approach the vessel owing to her dangerous location. Instead, the crew were evacuated by rescue helicopter.

Action taken

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to Horizon’s skipper, commending him on his actions following the grounding as well as drawing his attention to:

  • the potentially adverse effects of lack of sleep and the need to assess both the quality and quantity of rest taken by crew members when allocating watches;

  • the advantage of providing a kettle in the wheelhouse so that watchkeepers do not have to leave the wheelhouse and go to the galley;

  • the importance of providing clear instructions as to what is required of watchkeepers, including the need to closely monitor alterations of course.

The Deputy Chief Inspector has also written to the owner, commending him on the high level of standardised navigation and life-saving equipment fitted to his vessels and strongly advising him to draw the attention of his skippers to the above points.

Published: April 2008

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