NTSB Issues Report on 2022 Sinking of Alaska Fishing Vessel


Hotspur pictured earlier in Ketchikan, Alaska.

​​Hotspur pictured earlier in Ketchikan, Alaska. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard)​

​​Bilge alarms did not sound before capsizing

WASHINGTON (Feb. 15, 2024) — The National Transportation Safety Board determined flooding into the lazarette, a compartment below the main deck, or port void (empty) space likely caused the fishing vessel​ Hotspur to lose stability, capsize and sink near Nunez Rocks, Alaska.

Hotspur was transiting through Dixon Entrance on Aug. 2, 2022, when the vessel began listing to port. As the listing increased, the captain and four crewmembers abandoned the vessel to a life raft and were rescued by good samaritan vessels. Within about 20 minutes of the crew noticing the list, the vessel capsized and sank.

The bilge alarms did not sound in the wheelhouse before the vessel list became severe. Investigators determined the alarms in the port void space or the lazarette were most likely inoperative. Had the bilge/water alarm level systems in these spaces been operable, the crew could have acted earlier to address the list.

“Automatic high-water bilge alarms are intended to provide crews with an early warning of vessel flooding,” the report said. “In inaccessible spaces, or small spaces with limited means or ability to inspect underway, bilge level-monitoring alarms are often the sole means to alert operators of space flooding. Operators should periodically test bilge high-water alarms and follow best marine practices and manufacturer recommendations for inspection and maintenance.”

​With the short time between the captain first noticing a list and the vessel capsizing, investigators determined the vessel likely had limited stability while underway immediately before the flooding. Because the Hotspur was less than 79 feet, it was not subject to U.S. Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel stability requirements. Without stability calculations and stability instructions, the vessel’s operator had limited understanding of the vessel’s center of gravity. While Hotspur was functionally stable, the loading may not have provided an adequate margin of stability. The weight of the flood water, the free surface effect from the partially filled fuel tanks and the free surface created by the flooding decreased the vessel’s remaining stability, resulting in capsizing.

Hotspur was not salvaged and was declared a total loss of $1.2 million. 

Marine Investigation Report 24-03 is available online.

To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).