18 Apr 2012

Korean fishing boat had 'marginal stability' inquest hears

6:50 am on 18 April 2012

A ship surveyor has told an inquest in Wellington that a Korean fishing vessel which sank off the South Island had marginal stability when it left Dunedin and that would have grown worse leading up to the sinking.

Christchurch Coroner Richard McElrea is conducting an inquest into the deaths of six fishermen on board the Oyang 70 in August 2010.

Robert Leyden has been assisting the Coroner and told the inquest other factors in the sinking included the large amount of fish hauled onto the deck and the volume of water which came in through the waste chutes on the factory deck.

Mr Leyden said all those factors would have caused flooding, resulting in a loss of buoyancy.

He said emergency lighting didn't come on and it was a miracle in those circumstances that any of the crew managed to get into life rafts.

Mr Leyden said the rescue boat should have had a motor fitted and that could have been used to search the surrounding area.

He also questioned the level of emergency training given to the crew. Mr Leyden said if the crew had had basic training in abandon ship procedures, a head count would have revealed not all the crew were accounted for.

Earlier, Maritime New Zealand's services manager told the inquest that the attempt to haul aboard a large quantity of fish was the main cause of the sinking.

Sharyn Forsyth said while other issues such as water-tightness problems may have contributed to the sinking, it was the master's decision to pull on board a large catch which caused the ship to go down.

The ship was certified as safe but Ms Forsyth agreed in cross-examination that audits of the vessel were carried out in port and the conditions were not the same as might be encountered at sea.

She said Maritime New Zealand works with the Fisheries Ministry and Department of Labour regarding working conditions on board the foreign-flagged fishing vessels.

The inquest is expected to run all week.