Ship blamed in fatal fishing boat collision, Coast Guard search response also criticizedMay 7, 2009 12:00 AM
U.S. Coast Guard investigators plan enforcement action against a cargo ship accused of operating carelessly in fog when it struck a commercial fishing boat off California in 2007, killing the one fisherman aboard.
The Coast Guard also criticized the deceased fisherman and its own search and rescue response in the incident, which happened July 13 about 6 nautical miles west of Point Reyes, which is about 30 miles north of San Francisco.
The accident happened after the 291-foot Eva Danielsen had departed San Francisco Bay en route to Portland, Ore. With visibility around 200 yards in the Pacific Ocean, the Bahamas-flagged ship struck the 28-foot Buona Madre at 1712. Eva Danielsen was traveling at 11.5 knots, the Coast Guard report said.
Coast Guard investigators couldn't ascertain complete 96-hour work/rest histories for the master and second mate, the report said. "The second mate had a work/rest history log sheet for the month of July entered by the master who had falsified official documents for the vessel," the investigators wrote.
At the time of the collision, the second mate spotted an object on his radar near the ship's bow, but then the target disappeared. He suspected that his vessel had struck a fishing boat, although no shuddering was felt. He fetched the master.
"Look like that we have collision with small fishing boat," the master told the Vessel Traffic Service via radio.
A fishing boat discovered the body of fisherman Paul Wade at 1030 the next morning, 4.6 nautical miles northwest of the suspected location of the collision. Wade, of Santa Cruz, was floating with his face in the ocean, wearing a life jacket. The cause of death was drowning, the Sonoma County Coroner reported.
The report recommends one regulatory change. Currently, fishing boats that are 36 feet long or shorter need only carry a manually activated Category 2 406-MHz EPIRB. The investigators believe these boats should have the same requirements as larger fishing boats. Wade didn't activate his manual EPIRB.
Because small vessels "are at least as likely to suffer catastrophic damage and rapid sinking as the larger vessels ... the only acceptable option should be a float-free automatically activated EPIRB Category 1 406-MHz EPIRB mounted in such a way that it would float free and self-activate if the vessel sinks," the Coast Guard wrote.
Zukunft said "several misleading clues" convinced everyone involved that no collision had occurred. The Sector San Francisco Command Center failed to follow policies that call for an immediate response of Coast Guard units even if a false alert is suspected. Only the sector commander may classify an incident a false alert.
"The Coast Guard did not employ a full range of search and rescue resources immediately to respond to the suspected collision," he said.
Zukunft's memo specifies remedial actions including all-hands training. It recommends:
The addition of a remote VTS radar site at Point Reyes and Pillar Point.
Considering locating VTS and the Sector Command Center in the same place.
Evaluating a potential protocol for notifying Vessel Movement Reporting System users of high fishing boat activity.
Extending San Francisco Bay's North Traffic Lane by five to 10 miles, to minimize commercial vessel course changes in the offshore fishing location.