New NTSB report details loss of Alaska vessels

NTSB Report hightlights three Alaska vessel accidents, including the F/V Destination lost with all hands in 2018.

Click here to view report online. The Alaska incidents are on pages 22, 50, and 66 of the report. (Note: The page numbers of the pdf document are not the same as that of the report. Look for page numbers in top left corner of report pages.)


Mention the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, and many people bring to mind the organization that investigates airplane crashes. But aircraft accidents are just one category of incidents the NTSB investigates.

Another is fishing vessel and maritime accidents.

As KMXT’s Maggie Wall reports, the NTSB this fall released a report on accidents, and lessons learned from them. Among the vessel accidents investigated where three in Alaska.

Click triangle below to listen to report, or continue below to read the story.




At 11:15 p.m. on February 9, 2018, the F/V Destination, left Dutch Harbor with 200 crab pots and several pallets of bait bound for St. Paul Island to crab. The vessel and six crewmembers never made their destination

At shortly past 6 on the morning of February 11, the Destination left the protective leeward side of St. George Island under icy conditions. Data from the vessel’s Automatic Identification System –or AIS—showed the vessel’s heading pivoted drastically 256 degrees to starboard and its speed dropped below two knots. It is during this time that investigators believed the ship capsized and sank fewer than three miles northwest of St. George Island.

There was no mayday, only an EPIRB signal altered the Coast Guard to the tragedy.

These are some of the findings reported in the National Transportation Safety Board’s recently released “Safer Seas Digest 2018.” Its subtitle is ‘Lessons Learned from Marine Accident Investigations.”

Rather than a dry government report, the digest is easy-to-read and full of photos, charts, and graphics. Articles are captivating, with many including personal background that relate to the accidents.

For instance, it shares how the Destinations’ captain had never missed a delivery date in his 23-years of operating the vessel. During his last-known communication on the evening before the sinking, the captain expressed concern about failing to meet the delivery deadline to St. Paul Island.

NTSB investigators stated that the captain “may have determined that time was running out to deliver his crab to St. Paul Island and may have ultimately placed pressure on himself to maintain his perfect record.”

In the case of the F/V Destination, the NTSB concluded the probable cause of the capsizing and sinking was the captain’s decision to proceed during heavy freezing spray conditions without ensuring the vessel could handle the extra weight of the ice, or without taking sufficient mitigating actions to avoid or limit the effects of icing.

The other two Alaska vessels cited in the 84-page report are the F/V Ambition and the F/V St. Dominick.

The Ambition sank in July 2016 while transiting in the Bering Sea near the northern entrance to False Pass. The Ambition’s crew lived to tell the story after abandoning ship in immersion suites; they were picked up by a Good Samaritan vessel.

The St. Dominick’s crew also survived after the vessel went aground in Pumicestone Bay while cod fishing near Unalaska and Umnak Islands in March of 2017.

Robert Sumwalt is the NTSB Chairman. In the report, he said, “With every investigation we conduct, the lessons that we learn can prevent future losses–when marine stakeholders at all levels of the industry apply these lessons.”

Lessons learned from these three accidents, as well as the vessel accidents in other parts of the country, may be able to prevent other Alaska fishermen suffering the same fate.

For KMXT News, I’m Maggie Wall.




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