Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board say watertight doors left open during a storm likely caused the 93-foot fishing vessel Katmai to sink off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in late October 2008. Only four of the crew survived. Five men died and two others were never found.
The official report notes the watertight doors from the main deck to the processing space and the lazarette (the aft most compartment in the ship’s hull) were left open by the crew at a time when the vessel was overloaded and navigating in severe weather, which allowed water to enter the vessel, causing progressive flooding and sinking. Investigators said a contributing factor to the accident was the master’s decision to continue fishing operations during the approach of severe weather rather than seeking shelter and to load twice the amount of cargo addressed in the ship’s stability report. Another contributing factor was the owner’s failure to insure that stability information provided to the master was current and that the master understood it and operated the vessel accordingly, the report said.
Investigators also noted issues with the life rafts on board. Requirements for post-1997-manufactured life rafts are more stringent for ballast and stability than previously manufactured life rafts and are manufactured with ballast pockets to resist overturning due to wind and waves. Pre-1997 life rafts remain acceptable if maintained in serviceable condition, including periodic inflation testing. The 15-person life raft, manufactured in 1980, and the 10-person life raft, manufactured in 1994, were last serviced and inspected in 2007.
The detailed narrative of the last hours of the F/V Katmai notes that at the time of the accident winds were from the east at 60-70 knots, air temperatures about 38F, water temperature 43F, and wave height at 20-30 feet, with prevailing rain with no icing.
The Katmai, constructed of welded steel, was built as a shrimp trawler in 1987 in Pensacola, Florida. Originally named the Queen of the Universe, it was sold in 1992 and renamed the Amy S, then sold in 1993 to Katmai Fisheries Inc, which renamed it the Katmai. The NTSB said that the company is no longer in business.
The complete NTSB report on the accident is online at http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/fulltext/MAB1103.html