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After Deadly MOB, Norway Requires Crab Boats to Improve Deck Safety

Crab vessel Hunter
File image courtesy Vela Seafood

Published Feb 16, 2023 2:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Fatalities are routine in the crab-fishing sector, but after the latest man-overboard, the Norwegian Maritime Authority is taking new steps to control the rate of crewmember mortality by requiring better risk assessment and risk mitigation for deck work. 

On January 30, a Latvian crewmember went over the side of the Norwegian crabber Hunter while fishing for snow crab in the Barents Sea. Despite a heroic search effort, the body was never found, and the individual is presumed dead. 

An initial inquiry by the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority found that the crew member may have gone over the side with the crab pot lines while setting gear. The Board particularly cited MOB hazards related to the location of stored bait and the process of setting lines on the pot before deployment. 

Going forward, the Norwegian Maritime Authority wants operators to "eliminate" the risk of going overboard, "including being dragged overboard with the equipment [crab pots]."

The Norwegian Maritime Authority assessed that the Hunter lacked physical barriers to prevent crewmembers from being dragged overboard. To address this issue across the Norwegian-flagged crabbing fleet, the authority has ordered special inspections of all seagoing crabbing vessels. The checks will ensure that each vessel has conducted a proper risk assessment and has reduced identified dangers, to include installing "physical barriers, protection and safety devices and anti-slip to eliminate the risk of falling overboard."

Drawing on the findings of the initial investigation of the Hunter casualty, a special focus will also be placed on ensuring that each vessel has a common working language and that crewmembers can communicate. Police investigators needed to bring in several interpreters in order to question all of the Hunter's multinational crew, according to Fiskeribladet, highlighting the need for a common language on board. 

"We . . . want to ask [vessel owners] to ensure that the crew members can communicate in the working language on board, and that there is an adequate and reliable communication system between the wheelhouse and the working deck, as well as between the crew members on the working deck," said Arild Lie, chief engineer at the authority's fishing vessel division. 

The owner of the Hunter has declined requests for comment from Norwegian media. The vessel has returned to operations in the Barents Sea, according to her AIS signal.