NTSB calls for investigation into ice formation on fishing boats following the fatal sinking of the Scandies Rose in the Gulf of Alaska


The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday recommended further investigations into the destabilizing effects of ice formation on commercial fishing boats following a review of the investigation into the fatal sinking of the Scandies Rose.

The Seattle-based crab ship sank in the Gulf of Alaska in the final hours of New Year’s Eve 2019. Five crew members died and two were rescued. The ship had left Kodiak to fish in the Bering Sea.

“The Scandies Rose did not capsize and sunk because a crew member or the captain was not doing their job or was poorly maintained,” said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt during a board meeting on Tuesday. “She sank because her captain only had partial access to the information he needed to make the right decisions and the information he had was inaccurate.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, officials reviewed a draft investigation report that found the likely cause of the ship’s sinking. Sumwalt said they hope to learn from the tragedy and make recommendations that could prevent something similar.

According to the report, there were imprecise stability instructions for the ship. Regulatory guidelines for stability only allow for limited weight gains for accumulated ice on horizontal and vertical surfaces, the report said. The regulations do not provide guidance to crews on how to account for ice build-up on crab pots or other exposed surfaces.

“The ship was loaded according to stability instructions that were not conservative enough,” said Sumwalt. “The captain went to sea without the prescribed safety margin, and the ship met the weather conditions that required such a safety margin.”

The night the Scandies Rose sank, the weather was bad, ice formation accelerated rapidly, and the boat likely accumulated between 6 and 15 inches of ice on surfaces exposed to wind and icing, it said Report.

The ice accumulated asymmetrically on the ship and crab pots, which increased the boat’s center of gravity and contributed to capsizing, the report said.

Accurate weather data was also not available near the area where the Scandies Rose sank as the weather observations are dispersed in remote areas, the report said.

The Coast Guard says the Scandies Rose sank near the island of Sutwik on the night of December 31, 2019.

The NTSB issued recommendations Tuesday to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Association of North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Weather Service. Among other things, the effects of icing on crab pots and piles of crab pots should be examined and the regulatory stability calculations revised accordingly. The board also called for improved sinking surface observation resources and the launch of a freeze spray website.

“The recommendations we repeated would result in the necessary ship stability training for owners, masters and chief engineers – as well as other training,” said Sumwalt. “They would also lead to personal beacons for each member of the ship’s crew.”

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