An investigator is calling for urgent changes after dredging equipment fell on a deckhand and killed them onboard a scallop boat.

A chain link in the dredging gear that was suspended from the raised lifting device, known as a derrick, on the Honeybourne III snapped on October 6, 2023, while the boat was off the coast of Newhaven.

The gear fell and struck a deckhand working below. He suffered serious head injuries and died.

The configuration of a chain led over a static pin as part of the quick-release gear for the lifting arrangement is commonly used on board scallop dredgers and beam trawlers.

In February 2021, a similar chain arrangement parted onboard the beam trawler Cornishman, causing the death of a deckhand.

The Argus: The Honeybourne III's derrik on the starboard side

Following the Newhaven death last year, the Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB) said the “potential failure of chains used in this manner present an unacceptable level of risk to crew members working on the deck below”.

Andrew Moll, chief inspector of marine accidents at the MAIB, said: "This is the second death that the MAIB is investigating as a result of a chain comprising part of a quick-release system at the derrick head failing under load and allowing fishing gear to fall onto crew working on deck.

"Today, I am urging the owners and operators of beam and scallop trawlers to take note of the dangers highlighted in this safety bulletin, and to take immediate steps both to inspect their vessel’s quick-release arrangements and to make any changes necessary to the equipment or its operation to ensure the safety of crew working on deck.

“The chain-over-pin arrangement has recently resulted in two deaths and there is no room for a do-nothing option."

The MAIB recommends all owners, operators and skippers of UK scallop dredgers and beam trawlers “urgently ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of a failure of the derrick quick release mechanism chain has been undertaken and documented, noting the safety issues identified in this safety bulletin.

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“In addition, that mitigations are identified and immediately implemented to reduce the risk to the crew associated with a failure of the derrick quick-release mechanism to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable,” the MAIB said.

“We recommend that the crew are informed of the findings of the risk assessment and the measures taken for their protection.”

A recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to conduct an inspection campaign aboard UK scallop dredgers and beam trawlers fitted with derrick head quick-release mechanisms that incorporate chain mechanisms to ensure crew safety.