The 17 metre scallop dredger, St Apollo grounded and partially sank after it "suddenly turned unexpectedly" while on passage to fishing grounds.


Five people were rescued from the St Apollo when it grounded on a small island at the south-east entrance to the Sound of Mull on 24 August 2015.

An investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has been unable to determine why the vessel deviated from course.

The scallop dredger was on passage with the automatic steering engaged, when it “suddenly turned unexpectedly”.

The wheelhouse watchkeeper reduced the engine speed and alerted the skipper who was asleep in his bunk.

However, the vessel grounded before the skipper had a chance to reach the wheelhouse.

The MAIB investigation has identified that the St Apollo was probably already to the north of its planned route when it turned.

However, this was not noticed by the watchkeeper, who was monitoring the vessel’s position using a Decca Fishmaster plotter.

The MAIB report said the absence of a record of the route in use, positional data immediately before the grounding or any material evidence of an electronic or mechanical failure “prevents a detailed and accurate analysis of the circumstances.”

“Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether St Apollo’s grounding was due to navigational error, equipment malfunction, or a combination of both,” said the report.

The MAIB report also concluded that the watchkeeper, who held a Seafish under 16.5 metre skipper’s certificate, panicked.

“That he did not attempt to turn St Apollo towards safe water or stop the vessel by putting the engine astern, indicates that he panicked to some degree. This was probably due, among other things, to insufficient situational awareness, a lack of equipment knowledge and a low state of arousal,” said the report.

The MAIB noted the crew’s actions following the dredger’s grounding “were well considered and timely”.

Following the grounding, attempts were made to re-float St Apollo. But, as the tide fell, the vessel started to list to starboard.

The uninjured crew abandoned into a life raft and were picked up by the Oban lifeboat that was standing by.

The St Apollo then toppled onto its starboard side and remained partially submerged in shallow water.

The vessel was subsequently salvaged but was beyond economic repair.

The MAIB has recommended the owner of St Apollo improves “watch keeping practices and enhances the safety on any vessel he may own in the future.”

It has also issued a safety flyer highlighting the importance of keeping a safe navigational watch.