News release

Sinking of Five Star in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, in June 2014 highlights recurring issues with fishing vessel safety

Richmond, British Columbia, 7 May 2015 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (M14P0121) into the 12 June 2014, capsizing and sinking of the fishing vessel Five Star in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia.

The Five Star was on its way back to Kelsey Bay, British Columbia, after a 3-day crab-fishing voyage, with the master and one crew member aboard. The vessel was carrying approximately 1250 kg of crabs in 22 holding cages stowed on the deck. While underway, approximately one third of the catch was transferred to a large empty tote positioned on the centreline of the deck and secured to port and starboard of the vessel. Later in the voyage, the vessel encountered increased winds and 1-metre waves affecting the vessel on its stern quarters. To ensure the catch would remain alive, the crew member filled the tote with sea water, increasing its weight to 1100 kg. Soon after, the vessel heeled to port and the line securing the tote to the starboard side of the vessel broke. The tote and holding cages then shifted to the port side, causing the vessel to list to port. The deck eventually became flooded and the vessel capsized.

Just prior to the vessel capsizing, the crew member, who was wearing a lifejacket, jumped overboard. The master, who was not wearing a flotation device, escaped into the water through a cabin window. Both fishermen hung onto the hull until they abandoned ship and began to swim to shore. Halfway to shore, the crew member lost sight of the master and the vessel. The vessel is presumed to have sunk and the master is presumed to have drowned.

The investigation found that the decision to continue the voyage to Kelsey Bay exposed the Five Star to sea and wind conditions that caused the vessel to heel to port. This, in turn, led to the failure of the securing line and the shifting of the load, causing the vessel to capsize. Furthermore, as the vessel was not carrying equipment capable of transmitting an automatic distress signal, search and rescue was not initiated until the crew member reached shore and called 9-1-1.

The investigation also found a number of factors as to risk, including the lack of a requirement for most fishing vessels to undergo a formal stability assessment and the risk of not carrying equipment capable of automatically transmitting a distress signal. The investigation also determined there was a need for comprehensive assessments for emergency preparedness and emergency drills. The report cites 7 previous occurrences where the lack of a stability assessment was a contributing factor. The TSB also made a previous recommendation (M00-09) calling for automatic distress signaling equipment.

Loss of life on fishing vessels is a TSB Watchlist issue. Although regulations have been proposed by Transport Canada to address several deficiencies with respect to fishing safety, there have been significant delays in their implementation. There needs to be a concerted and coordinated action by federal and provincial authorities and by leaders in the fishing community to improve the safety culture in fishing operations, recognizing the interaction of safety deficiencies.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053