On 21 February 2016, the fishing vessel Saputi, with 30 people on board, was fishing turbot in Davis Strait, Nunavut. At 1935 Atlantic Standard Time, the vessel struck a piece of ice that cracked the hull in the cargo hold. After pumping operations failed to keep up with the ingress of water, the cargo hold was sealed, and it subsequently flooded. The vessel developed a severe list but was able to proceed to Nuuk, Greenland, arriving on 24 February. No injuries were reported.
The investigation determined that, at 1840, the master sighted a single piece of ice on the port side that was not assessed to be of any danger to the vessel. While the master slowly altered the Saputi'scourse to avoid the piece of ice, a wave lifted the vessel, and as the vessel fell off the wave, it made contact with the ice. As a result, a vertical crack in the ship's hull was created, which led to a significant volume of water entering the vessel. The crew of the Saputi unsuccessfully attempted to seal the crack using available materials not specifically intended for damage control. They had also actioned all on board pumps to try controlling the incoming water. If fishing vessels operating in ice-infested waters do not carry a damage control plan and booklet on board, the master and crew may be inadequately prepared for an emergency situation where there is ingress of water, and may be unable to keep the vessel afloat until the arrival of rescue resources.
Early the following day, the master advised Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Halifax that the vessel was unable to keep up with the ingress of water using the pumps on board, and requested additional pumps. Almost six hours later, a Hercules aircraft, tasked by JRCC Halifax, arrived at the Saputi and dropped off four gasoline-powered search and rescue (SAR) pumps to the vessel, which allowed the crew to remove a large volume of water. Shortly after, crew members advised the master that they were having suction issues with all four SAR pumps. Since the situation had deteriorated drastically, all pumping operations were stopped, leaving the cargo hold to flood completely. Large fishing vessels are not required to be designed to withstand the flooding of a main compartment. A naval architect who had completed stability calculations advised that the vessel could remain afloat and stable with the cargo hold flooded. If fishing vessels operating in ice-infested waters are not designed and constructed to withstand the complete flooding of any one of the main compartments, there is a risk that vessels will not be able to remain afloat if they lose their watertight integrity.
In this occurrence, the gasoline-powered pumps provided by SAR resources did not perform efficiently, and therefore did not control the ingress of water. To effectively address an emergency, it is critical that the equipment provided to a vessel in distress by SAR resources perform adequately.
Commercial fishing safety is a TSB Watchlist issue. Although regulations have been published and will likely lower some of the risks associated with outstanding safety deficiencies, gaps remain and these new regulations apply only to small fishing vessels up to 24.4 metres. Future phases of the regulations will address large fishing vessels over 24.4 metres; however, no work has commenced.
See the investigation page for more information.