The Coast Guard’s latest release, “Safety Alerts, Safety Advisories, Lessons Learned 2008-2012” won’t be on the New York Times’ best-seller list, but it’s something fishermen and boat owners should read.
It contains 43 safety alerts that have come out of the Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis over a period of five years. Here’s a brief look at some of the points in the report.
The document includes a few safety alerts having to do with faulty safety equipment. One is a March 2012 notice of problems with Mustang inflatable PFDs. The culprit is faulty hydrostatic inflation systems, which may not inflate. The safety alert identifies which products are affected.
Then the August 2009 alert warns EPIRB users of servicing companies using unapproved 406 EPIRB replacement batteries. “These unauthorized battery installations would likely result in a failure” reads the safety alert. That’s something worth knowing.
Some of the safety alerts serve as a reminder that when you do one thing to your boat — upgrade fishing gear — it almost always affects something else — stability. Take the safety alert for November 2008 on fishing vessel stability:
A “major marine casualty” occurred because of improper loading of fuel, water, fishing gear and the catch. The crew was using an outdated stability book “that failed to account for heavy fishing equipment that had been removed from the vessel as well as new fish processing and equipment additions when it changed fishery operations.”
Then again there are just plain dumb things. These are usually committed in an attempt to fish harder and faster, without bothering to think of consequences. A safety alert for February 2012 discusses how a number of people have died or been injured because of “several catastrophic failures of masts, booms and lift cables” on purse seiners. Some of these evidently happen when a crewman tries to increase the lifting capacity beyond its design capacity.
Did you know that 42 percent of all marine casualties on fishing boats are the result of flooding that could have been prevented with watertight doors? A December 2008 safety alert has several suggestions for maintaining watertight doors. Even if a door is closed it might not be watertight. That’s because the door gasket has been painted or the gasket has deteriorated.
Then there’s an interesting breakdown of why a relatively new boat’s CO2 fixed firefighting system failed in an October 2010 safety alert. The crew put the fire out with portable extinguishers, but if they had needed the CO2 system for machinery spaces it wouldn’t have worked.
Not all of these safety alerts pertain to commercial fishing boats. The alert titled “Danger Aloft” is one. An 18-year-old was engaged in a “rite of passage” on a tall ship by crossing between masts on the spring stay when he slipped, fell to the deck and died. Still, this is informative for fishermen if only because it emphasizes the need for safety equipment and training, especially for greenhorns.