‘Working hours at sea must be better enforced’

The report into the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy will recommend better enforcement of EU regulations governing working hours for fishermen.

‘Working hours at sea must be better enforced’

Improved policing of the 2003 EU Working Time Directive, which sets down specific working hours and break-time rules for sea fishing workers, is one of several safety recommendations expected to issue when the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) publishes its report on Monday.

The report cites crew fatigue, inadequate watch-keeping arrangements, and the crew’s unfamiliarity with onboard emergency drills as contributory factors in the sinking of the vessel at the mouth of Glandore Harbour in Jan 2012, with the loss of five lives.

The sole survivor, Abdo Mohamad, is said to be “happy” with the MCIB draft report.

“He got a copy of the draft report a few weeks ago and went through it and was quite happy with it,” his friend Morad Gharib said last night.

“But he does not know whether the final report will differ from the draft and he will not be commenting.”

Caitlín Uí hAodha, the widow of the ship’s skipper, Michael Hayes, also declined to comment.

Paddy Kershaw, the father of Kevin, who died in the tragedy, said while the report will not bring any of the men back, he hopes it will help other fishermen in future.

The MCIB report, which took 13 months to complete, found:

- The vessel was operating on auto-pilot when it struck the rocks;

- There was no warning or alarm prior to the incident;

- The crew appeared to have had just four to five hours’ sleep in the 40 hours before the sinking, causing crew fatigue;

- There were inadequate watch-keeping arrangements in place on board.

- The vessel had only five immersion suits despite six people on board.

An MCIB spokesperson said its function is to investigate marine casualties and to publish the reports.

“The purpose of such investigations is to establish the cause or probable causes of a marine casualty with a view to making recommendations for the avoidance of similar marine casualties,” he said.

“It is not the purpose of the investigation to attribute blame or fault.”

The Tit Bonhomme, which was licensed to carry five people, left Union Hall in West Cork on Friday, Jan 13, 2012, with six men onboard — skipper Mr Hayes, 51, from Co Waterford, Egyptian crewmen Mr Mohamad, his brother Wael, Saied Aly Eldin, Attia Shaban, and Kevin Kershaw, 21, on his first trip to sea.

The boat had difficulty with a bilge pump and Mr Hayes headed for port.

But the trawler struck rocks on Adam Island, at the mouth of the harbour, early on Jan 15 and sank.

The bodies of Mr Hayes, Wael Mohamad, Saied Aly Eldin, Attia Shaban, and Kevin Kershaw were recovered during a massive 26-day search.

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