Marine Accident Report: Sinking of U.S. Fish Processing Vessel Alaska Ranger Bering Sea March 23, 2008

NTSB Number: MAR-09-05
NTIS Number: PB2009-916405
Adopted September 30, 2009
PDF Document

Executive Summary

On March 23, 2008, the U.S. fish processing vessel Alaska Ranger sank in the Bering Sea 120 nautical miles west of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The vessel was owned by Fishing Company of Alaska, Inc., headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Five of the 47 people on board died in the accident.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the sinking of the Alaska Ranger was uncontrolled, progressive flooding due to a lack of internal watertight integrity and to a breach of the hull's watertight envelope, likely caused by a physical rudder loss. Contributing to the loss of life was the vessel's movement astern, which likely accelerated the flooding and caused the liferafts to swing out of reach of many crewmembers.

The safety issues discussed in the report concern the vessel's movement astern, company operations, postaccident drug and alcohol testing, emergency response, implementation of the U.S. Coast Guard's Alternate Compliance and Safety Agreement program, and oversight of U.S. commercial fishing industry vessels. Safety recommendations are made to the Coast Guard, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Fishing Company of Alaska.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the Alaska Ranger sinking, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations.

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

Conduct refresher training for your marine inspectors and commercial fishing vessel examiners on the licensing and manning regulations that apply to commercial fishing industry vessels. (M-09-9)

Seek legislative authority to require that all commercial fishing vessels be inspected and certificated by the Coast Guard to ensure that the vessels provide an appropriate level of safety to those on board. (M-09-10)

To the National Marine Fisheries Service:

Amend the regulations at 50 Code of Federal Regulations Part 679, Subpart H, to allow for replacement of an Amendment 80 vessel in situations other than vessel loss. (M-09-11) To the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:

Amend the fishery management plan for groundfish of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island management area to allow for replacement of an Amendment 80 vessel in situations other than vessel loss. (M-09-12)

To Fishing Company of Alaska:

Review and modify as necessary the procedures for enforcing your drug and alcohol policy to ensure full crew compliance. (M-09-13)