The Transportation Safety Board of Canada recently released a report on the collision of the 90-foot Canadian trawler Viking Storm and the 40-foot longliner Maverick about 30 miles off La Push, Wash., on Sept. 28, 2012. One crewman on the Maverick drowned when the boat sank within minutes of the collision. The Viking Storm rescued the Maverick’s remaining three crewmen.
As is often the case, this accident was the result of a cascade of problems: The Maverick was drifting with the crew asleep and no one in the wheelhouse; in limited visibility, the crewman in the Viking Storm’s wheelhouse left to get something to eat; the Viking Storm, besides running with its navigation lights on, also was using its high-pressure sodium lights. The lights blinded a crewman on the Maverick who had gotten up to use the head, so he couldn’t react to take evasive action as the Viking storm closed in on the Maverick in near-zero visibility.
Another risk factor, which might not be considered a risk, was the use of the Viking Storm’s automatic identification system. The mate on the Viking Storm was primarily focusing his attention on the AIS to minimize the possibility of a collision. Even though a target was showing on the radar 4 to 5 miles ahead, he wasn’t using the radar to plot the target.
Of course, a problem with relying on AIS is that boats without AIS won’t be displayed on your screen. The Maverick didn’t have AIS, so the mate on the Viking Storm wouldn’t have seen it.
As the Transportation Safety Board’s report reads: “If AIS are used for vessel detection and collision avoidance without the use of other collision avoidance tools, vessels fitted with AIS and those without may be at risk.”
Photos: The Maverick (top), a 40-foot longliner, and the Viking Storm (bottom), a 90-foot Canadian trawler, collided off La Push, Wash., in 2012; Transportation Safety Board of Canada