6th September 2023

Propellor fouls on pot line

Initial Report

Shortly after a fishing vessel entered the main channel at the harbour entrance, the engine’s revolutions unexpectedly slowed, and the engine temperature rose. A quick investigation revealed that a poorly marked floating line attached to a line of pots had become wrapped around the prop shaft. The line was cut free, but the engine would not restart, and the vessel had to be towed into the harbour by another fishing vessel which was, fortunately, passing close by.

Further investigation proved that the gearbox had been severely damaged and needed to be replaced, costing over £10,000 and two weeks’ lost fishing time. Although the insurance covered the gearbox cost, the loss of income over the two weeks was significant.

CHIRP Comment

Laying pots near a main channel can be attractive because the areas are rarely fished, usually in sheltered water, and are easy to access. However, CHIRP frequently receives reports about vessels becoming snagged on pot lines which have been poorly marked. In this case, the marker was an empty 2-litre plastic milk carton.

Fishers sometimes use floating line because even if the marker buoy is lost, the string of pots can often be recovered. However, it presents a snagging hazard, particularly at low tide, which is why port authorities prohibit it. Where the laying of pots within harbour limits is allowed, they should be laid away from the main channel so that the riser is kept well away from the channel.

Losing control of a vessel inside a busy harbour can easily cause collision into moored or passing boats or an uncontrolled grounding. Both can result in a pollution incident which would close the port. For these reasons, CHIRP discourages laying pots near main navigational routes

Key Issues relating to this report

Local practices – Check whether your harbour allows pots to be laid inside the harbour. Where it is permissible, lay away from navigational routes or among lines of moorings. Where practicable, ensure the riser is at the end furthest away from the channel, and avoid using a floating line.

Design – Be aware of any local requirements regarding the design and size of marker buoys, and in any case follow local ‘best practice’ to avoid dangerous situations and to minimize the risk of losing fishing gear.

Situational awareness – Keep a close watch out for poorly marked lines inside the harbour and navigate with caution. Have an emergency plan to react quickly to an unexpected loss of control or steering. Report poorly marked lines inside harbours to the harbour master so that they can inform the owner to take appropriate measures.

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