MAIB: Empty Wheelhouse Contributed to Collision and Sinking

Achieve under tow after the collision (MAIB / RNLI)

Published Dec 5, 2021 10:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The MAIB has released its report into the collision of the fishing vessel Achieve with the freighter Talis in November 2020, which resulted in the sinking of Achieve. The agency found that neither vessel had kept an effective watch in fog, and that no one was in the Achieve's wheelhouse at the time of the collision.  

At about 0530 hours on Nov. 8, 2020, the trawler Achieve departed North Shields, England, bound for fishing grounds off Tynemouth. The skipper planned to fish during the day and return to North Shields that afternoon. Conditions were overcast with patches of fog.

At about 1430 hours that afternoon, the freighter Talis departed Blyth with a cargo of red stone, bound for the Netherlands. With the chief officer on watch, Talis maintained a steady southeasterly course at eight knots, headed for the waters off Tynemouth.

At about the same time, the captain of the Achieve decided to return to port. He got under way and engaged the autopilot, heading southwest at about five knots. After testing out his new radar - installed two days earlier - he left the wheelhouse unattended and went aft to check on his deckhand.

At 1538, Talis' chief officer detected Achieve on the radar when the fishing boat was about one nautical mile away on the port bow. He saw no corresponding AIS signal, so he and his AB tried to spot the vessel visually with their binoculars. They did not immediately spot her, but within a few moments, Achieve emerged from the fog. Talis' chief officer sounded one long blast of the whistle and put the rudder hard to starboard; Achieve did not alter course appreciably, and she struck Talis on the port side at about 1541.

Aboard Achieve, the bilge alarms sounded soon after the collision. The deckhand went below and found several sprung planks around the stem, with water flowing in. He decided not to try to go into the after section of the space to start the engine-powered bilge pump, fearing that he would be trapped by rising water. 

The Achieve's master made a distress call to the Humber Coastguard, which tasked the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat (ALB) with responding. The lifeboat was on scene by about 1605, and it rigged up a towline and salvage pump. However, the Achieve continued to settle lower in the water, and her master and deckhand decided to abandon ship onto the all-weather lifeboat. The fishing vessel sank at about 1810 hours in about 60 feet of water.

Talis sustained a minor dent on her port side, with no hull penetrations or flooding. In the minutes after the collision, she offered her assistance to Achieve, but she was released by the UK Coastguard and continued her voyage to the Netherlands. 

The MAIB concluded that neither vessel was keeping an effective lookout in conditions of restricted visibility. Achieve’s wheelhouse was unmanned at the time of the collision, and the MAIB found that with more attentive watchkeeping aboard Talis, the chief officer could have detected the risk of collision sooner. In addition, the board determined that even after the risk was identified, the Talis chief officer’s action was "hesitant and too late to avoid a collision."