Twenty-two fishermen died on a South Korean vessel near Antarctica because of negligence from the boat master and officers, a New Zealand coroner has found.
Half of the crew of 42 died after the longline toothfishing vessel No 1 Insung sank in the Southern Ocean on December 13, 2010.
Though the ship never entered New Zealand waters, because five bodies were brought to New Zealand the coroner inquired into the circumstances of the deaths.
Twenty people survived, but the bodies of the remaining 17 people were never found.
Coroner Richard McElrea found the main reason the ship sank was because water entered the ship through a "cutaway" used during hauling of longlines.
Those areas should have been closed before passage continued. There also should have been a watertight door sealing the engine room. Instead, seawater breached the side of the ship through the cutaway area and flowed through the lower reaches of the vessel.
An expert in Antarctic conditions Master Mariner Andrew Leachmen told the coroner that the ship had remained set up as a "fish factory" even though it was sailing to another zone through "ice-laden, hostile waters". That indicated "slack" ship management.
Further systemic issues on the ship contributed to the deaths.
Coroner McElrea found there had been no onboard emergency or evacuation drills and no safety training.
The vessel may have been unstable and its watch keeping was inadequate .
About 5.20am on the day of the sinking the boat master altered course. This manoeuvre exposed the starboard side to 3-metre waves that breached the vessel through the cutaway areas.
The boat master was alerted to problems at 6am and by 6.25am the ship capsized. The surrounding waters would have been about zero degrees Celsius.
The coroner found the boat master had failed to command an evacuation in a "timely manner".
Lifejackets were not systematically distributed and though some of the crew received lifejackets many did not have time to put them on.
No distress call was made in English. The only call made from the distressed ship was made in Korean to other Korean vessels nearby.
The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was not made aware of the situation until six hours after the ship had sunk.
A Russian scientific observer onboard the vessel survived the sinking. He recalled being woken up by "screams and noise" and felt a considerable list to the starboard side.
When he got to the deck 12 or 15 people were on the port side, none of whom had lifesaving equipment. When the ship started to go under, the observer leapt into the sea and swam to a liferaft.
People in the liferafts took no measures to rescue people in the water, but tried to get onboard as quickly as possible, he said.
Five bodies recovered
- Euyjong Choi, 33, Korean.
- Jongkuen Ha, 48, Korean.
- Jodi, 28, Indonesian.
- Dodi Purnomo, 23, Korean.
- Tuong Nguyen, 24, Vietnamese.
- © Fairfax NZ News