The engine room of the fishing boat, Majestic, had been flooded for an hour before the crew noticed, according to findings by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has found that the crew of Majestic did nothing to stop the flooding in the engine room prior to abandoning the vessel.

In its report into the sinking off Shetland, it said that although the engine room’s bilge alarm sounded in the wheelhouse, it was not heard because the skipper and his brother were working on deck.

The crew of the 16 metre wooden potter abandoned into a life raft and were rescued by a nearby fishing vessel. Neither of them were injured.

Both were lifelong fishermen.

Majestic subsequently drifted, and sank just two metres from a gas pipeline off the Point of Fethaland on 21 January 2016.

Crew of the Majestic are rescued after their potter sank off Shetland on 21 January 2016

The two brothers are rescued by the fishing boat, Fairway. Credit: MCA/MAIB


“No efforts were made to stem the flood and the vessel foundered approximately
4 hours after it was abandoned,” said the MAIB.

It is thought the cause of the engine room flood was probably as a result of a failure within a seawater system or sea valve.

The sinking of the Majestic didn’t cause any pollution.

The owner of the pipeline, British Petroleum, placed sandbags between the wreck and the pipeline to prevent any damage.

The MAIB report found that Majestic’s wheelhouse was left unattended “for a prolonged period”.

“The desire to minimise manpower costs and the reported difficulties in recruiting fishermen often result in minimum crewing that makes it likely that the wheelhouses on board many fishing vessels will be left unattended during certain phases of the fishing process,” noted the MAIB.

“In view of the need to maintain a safe navigational watch, such a situation cannot be condoned. However, as leaving wheelhouses unattended for short periods is likely to persist, it would be beneficial for safety-critical alarms to be audible throughout a vessel, and not only in the wheelhouse,” it continued.

The MAIB also highlighted that “several actions were not taken that potentially could have delayed the need to abandon and might have prevented the vessel’s loss.”

It said the rate of flooding “would have been slowed” by “50 per cent” if the electric bilge pump had been turned on.

The main engine could also have been switched off.

The MAIB also added that the crew’s response to the emergency “was probably reduced because they did not routinely conduct emergency drills.”

Neither men wore personal flotation devices while working on deck.

They did not don lifejackets when abandoning the Majestic, a move described by the MAIB as “foolhardy”.

“This accident indicates that relevant guidance and the lessons from similar accidents were not being sufficiently heeded,” stated the MAIB.

It has now issued a marine safety flying to the fishing industry, highlighting its findings.

It has also recommended to the owners of Majestic that if they own or skipper any vessel in the future they must:

  • Fully assess the dangers of leaving the wheelhouse unattended so that practical measures can be adopted to mitigate such risks;
  • Ensure emergency drills are conducted in accordance with the rules and;
  • life jackets are worn by all crew working on the open deck at sea.