Sometimes when things start going wrong at sea it doesn’t take long for the situation to get really, really bad. At 11:30 a.m. on July 26, 2016, flooding was discovered in the engine room of the Alaska Juris, a 218-foot trawler operating 160 miles west of Adak in the Bering Sea. At 11:34, the Alaska Juris’ EPIRB was activated and a GMDSS distress signal was sent.

None of the four bilge alarms sounded, though within 30 minutes of discovering the flooding, water was 2 feet above the engine room deck, causing the engine and generators to shut down. The skipper instructed the crew to prepare to abandon ship. The Alaska Juris now rests 11,100 feet below the surface. Two nearby fishing boats rescued all 46 crewmembers.

The accident report stated, “The probable cause of the sinking of the fishing vessel Alaska Juris was a lack of watertight integrity, which failed to contain flooding in the engine room.”

The sinking of the Alaska Juris is one of 41 accidents that make up the National Transportation Safety Board’s Safer Seas Digest 2017. This is the fifth year the NTSB has published a maritime accident report and includes the most boats covered so far. It’s also the best one yet in terms of charts, photos and lessons learned from each accident.

Nine of the 41 accidents involved fishing boats: four on the East Coast, one in the Gulf of Mexico, two in the Bering Sea and two in the South Pacific ocean nearer America Samoa.

In the flooding category, fishing vessels lead all other vessel groups with flooding being a major concern in six of nine fishing vessel accidents. The failure to maintain watertight integrity probably means vessel owners are not maintaining their hulls, bulkheads and watertight doors. The three other fishing vessel accidents were grouped under fires/explosions and capsizing. The latter involved the 71’ 6" Lydia & Maya, a Boston based dragger on Aug. 17, 2016. Contributing factors were an uncontrolled drop of 7,000 pounds of fish on the deck, sleep deprivation, physical workload and potential drug use.

But go online and check it out for yourself. Safer Seas Digest 2017 might save your boat from being in Safer Seas Digest 2018.

Michael Crowley is the former Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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