New light has been shed on the deadly sinking of the Washington-managed crab boat Scandies Rose from December 31, 2019 that led to a $9 million settlement last year. An inquiry has been initiated by the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, who have interviewed the vessel’s co-owner, the two survivors of the sinking, former crew members, naval architects, and people involved in boat repairs. From the investigation, a mayday transmission from the night of the sinking was discovered. “We are rolling over,” were the last words heard from the boat before the incident that killed five of the seven crew members on-board.
Weather was thought to play a major role in the sinking, as heavy freezing rain was expected that night off the coast of Alaska. Experts believe ice may have built up on the boat’s crab pots and hulls, making it more likely to capsize. Leaks in the boat are also being investigated after a smaller incident in 2018 where the boat needed to be repaired.
Improving safety has been a major focus following this tragedy, especially with the dark history of crab boats sailing during Alaska’s fall and winter seasons. Seattle Times staff reporter, Hal Berton wrote, “During the 1990s, more than 70 crab-boat crew members died, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Safety was improved by increased Coast Guard oversight of loading heavy steel-framed crab pots, and a change in the harvest system, which assures a boat a harvest share and eases the pressure on crews to work through bad weather. From 2006 to through 2016, no crab boat went down with loss of life. Then in February 2017, the Seattle-based Destination sank, killing all six crew, and less than two years later, the Scandies Rose went down.”
As part of the Coast Guard’s investigation, three Washington state naval architects were able to testify, ultimately critiquing the federal guidelines for loading crab boats in icy dangerous conditions in Alaska. The architects also pointed out that regulation underestimates the amount of ice build-up that can occur in bad weather and how much that can affect stability of the boat.
Read more on the investigation here:
We can only hope the ongoing investigation into the sinking of the Scandies Rose leads to a change in safety measures. It is a ship owner’s responsibility to maintain their vessel and ensure it is seaworthy for its crew, therefore, regulations should reflect those high standards to prevent situations like this from happening again. GLP Attorneys offers an entire practice group for maritime injuries and boating accidents for those in need of service.
Our sympathy goes out to the survivors of the sinking and the families of the crew members killed.