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BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston in Kirkcudbright
"In general safety terms it has thrown up some serious concerns"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's Eric Crockart reports
"The MAIB inspectors identify four main safety concerns"
 real 28k

SFF chief executive Hamish Morrison
"You can never tell whether a missing hatch caused a problem"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 19:24 GMT
Trawler probe finds safety flaws

RNLI recover liferaft
The RNLI recovered one of the vessel's liferafts


Inspectors investigating the sinking of the Solway Harvester with the loss of its seven crew say they have found evidence of "several safety shortcomings".

A report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch says a hatch on the main deck of the Kirkcudbright-registered scallop dredger was open and there was no sign of a cover for it.

Neither of the vessel's two liferafts appear to have been attached to the boat and neither had been serviced for four years. They should have been inspected annually.


These problems of the alleged lack of training, problems with rigging and maintaining of liferafts had nothing whatsoever to do with this vessel being lost
Hamish Morrison, SFF
The report goes on: "Before sailing in a fishing vessel, fishermen are required to undergo basic safety training.

"Three of the seven crew are known to have done so but there is no evidence the remaining four had."

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Rear Admiral J.S. Lang, writes: "The MAIB's initial inquiries have revealed several safety shortcomings which give rise to serious concerns about the safety of all fishing vessels, and particularly, for the crews sailing on similar scallop dredgers and other trawlers operating out of Kirkcudbright."

Criticism rebutted

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation said it was too early to draw conclusions about the role of the Solway Harvester's deck coverings.

Chief executive Hamish Morrison said: "You can never tell whether a missing hatch caused the problem or whether the absence of the hatch was due to the sinking itself."

"These safety issues are important and we are very keen at every stage to impress them but let us be very clear.

Fishermen on quayside There is concern for other fishing vessels
"These problems of the alleged lack of training, problems with rigging and maintaining of liferafts had nothing whatsoever to do with this vessel being lost."

Referring to the speed at which the vessel went down, he added: "If everyone had been trained to the highest standards, if the liferafts had been maintained and rigged to the best standards, they would be of no use."

The Solway Harvester sank in heavy seas 11 miles south-east of the Isle of Man on 11 January, with winds estimated about force six.

Collision theory

There has been speculation that the vessel was involved in a collision.

The inspectors say: "The underwater survey has revealed some hull damage, which on initial inspection, is consistent with Solway Harvester having impacted the seabed stem first.

Mills Family Funeral services have been held for the crew
"The wreck will be raised and the hull will be examined more closely before this can be confirmed beyond doubt."

The hold contained about nine tonnes of shellfish and the vessel was heading towards Ramsey on the Isle of Man to seek shelter.

The absence of a Mayday transmission or any other radio report of trouble - and the subsequent discovery of all seven bodies of the crew in the trawler - indicate that "whatever happened occurred very rapidly".

Attempts to raise the wreck from the seabed have so far been delayed by poor weather conditions.

It is hoped it will be soon be recovered by salvage vessel CSO Wellservicer to allow a more detailed examination of the damage.

Skipper Craig Mills, his brother Robin, their cousin David, Martin Milligan, David Lyons, John Murphy and Wesley Jolly all drowned when the boat sank.

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In DepthIN DEPTH
Trawler sinking
The unfolding of the Solway Harvester story

See also:
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
09 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Harvester crewmen laid to rest
13 Jan 98 |  UK
Hatches left open on Sapphire trawler

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