Grounding of potter Niamh Aine

Location: Lough Swilly, Republic of Ireland.

Completed PE Summary: Niamh Aine

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Vessel name:   Niamh Aine
Registered Owner:   Private Owner
Port of Registry:   Belfast
Flag:   UK
Type:   Shelter deck Potter
Built:   1991
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   18.30m
Gross tonnage:   122
Date & Time:   22 March 2009, 0150 UTC
Location of incident:   Lough Swilly, Ireland
Incident Type:   Grounding
Persons onboard:   6
Injuries/fatalities:   None
Damage/pollution:   Constructive Total Loss


Niamh Aine was returning to her home port in Lough Swilly, Ireland, to land a catch of live crab, at the end of a 6 day fishing trip. The crew had worked long hours during the trip, at least 18 hours per day on deck as well as sharing the night watches on the bridge, in order to catch sufficient crab to make the trip commercially viable.

On 22 March at 0100, with the vessel heading towards her home port, the skipper took the bridge watch for entry into the Lough. It was a dark, clear, night with a slight sea running and there were no other vessels in the area. The skipper sat in the wheelhouse chair, reset the watch alarm, which was located close to the chair, and soon after fell asleep.

At 0150 the vessel grounded at the base of a steep cliff on the east shore of Lough Swilly. The skipper immediately awoke and was soon joined in the wheelhouse by the crew who reported that water was already in the accommodation. The skipper made a Mayday call to the coastguard and instructed the crew to don their lifejackets and wear warm clothing as it was apparent that the vessel was hard aground and badly damaged as a result.

After a delay of a few hours, while the rescue services awaited daylight due the vessel’s precarious position, the crew, who had remained commendably calm were rescued, unharmed, by helicopter. The vessel was subsequently declared a constructive total loss.

Action taken

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the vessel’s owner:

  • commending the professional manner in which the skipper and crew responded to the accident, particularly with regard to the skipper’s calm and clear communications with the coastguard and rescue helicopter during the rescue.

  • pointing out the inevitable effects of fatigue in crews working very long days in order to remain profitable in difficult commercial conditions.

  • Identifying that the bridge watch alarm should be relocated to be out of reach of the wheelhouse chair, such that a watchkeeper has to stand up and move in order to cancel the alarm

A Flyer to the Fishing Industry, detailing the circumstances of the accident and the dangers of fatigue, will be published in the near future.

Published: April 2009

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