The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released a report into the explosion aboard the crab potting vessel Galwad-Y-Mor on 15 December 2020.
The 15m crab potting vessel was hauling pots in the North Sea approximately 22 miles north-east of Cromer when the crabbing gear disturbed a 250kg unexploded Second World War bomb, which detonated on the seabed below the vessel.
The explosion caused a shockwave that threw the Galwad-Y-Mor about resulting in significant injuries to five of the seven crew, and major damage to the vessel's hull and machinery.
The crew managed to send a distress message, launch the life raft, and board rescue boats that had been dispatched by a nearby offshore support vessel. The injured crew were transferred to hospital by helicopter and RNLI lifeboat. They were treated for head, back and knee injuries.
The Galwad-Y-Mor was successfully salvaged and has been rebuilt.
The MAIB points out two key safety issues:
- Unexploded ordnance can be highly volatile even after many years of being submerged. In the event of encountering a UXO, seafarers are advised to follow the recommendations in MGN 323 (M+F) Explosives Picked Up At Sea
- Galwad-Y-Mor's crew could not have anticipated the fouling of a bomb in the potting string and the resulting explosion. Their training, experience and emergency preparedness improved their chances of survival.
The MAIB has made no recommendations based on the accident's circumstances and no action has been taken by external stakeholders. It says the aim of this report is to highlight that dangers still exist with unexploded ordnance in UK waters, and the actions to take should any be encountered. In this case, the skipper and the crew could not have foreseen the explosion and their level of preparedness to deal with such emergency saved lives.
The full report can be accessed here.