Safety Lessons from Marine Incident Investigation (AMSA Report) No.15 – January 2023

Rope entanglement while setting cray pots results in person overboard.


On 6 October 2022, two crewmembers were setting cray pots on the port and starboard side of a fishing vessel.

During one setting, the crewmember’s foot (on the port side) became entangled in the cray pot’s rope dragging them over the side. The second crewmember raised the alarm and the master immediately stopped the vessel and instructed the crewmember to attach the line to the pot winch.

The master and crewmember, having conducted regular emergency procedure drills, quickly raised the person overboard (PoB) via the pot winch, deployed the overboard ladder, and cut the rope. The PoB sustained some water in the lungs but was otherwise unharmed. 

What happened 

After leaving port at 0627 on 6 October 2022, a Class 3C fishing vessel prepared to deploy its cray pots.

A crewmember lifted the pot and placed it on the vessel’s aft port side gunwale rail, ready to deploy, as did another crewmember on the aft starboard side. Both crewmembers were wearing inflatable lifejackets. The master sounded the vessel’s horn to signal the correct place to drop the pots. The port side crewmember’s foot became entangled in the pot rope and they were dragged overboard.

The starboard side crewmember raised the person overboard alarm, and the master immediately put the engine astern to stop the vessel. The master looked out the wheelhouse’s port window and saw the PoB take a last breath before being pulled underwater. The master immediately instructed the starboard side crewmember to put the pot rope into the pot winch and start winching slowly.

As soon as the PoB was winched as far as the pot tipper and out of the water, the master ran down from the bridge and grabbed the PoB to support them while the crewmember deployed the person overboard portable ladder over the side and grabbed the person overboard knife.

The crewmember climbed over the side and cut away the pot rope. The PoB was assisted into the vessel and given first aid. On returning to port, the PoB was taken to hospital for overnight observation and treatment for water on the lungs.

Investigation findings

The investigation identified the following contributory factors:

  • The master and crew had identified the person overboard hazards and accompanying risks. They had assessed the risks and included within their safety management system emergency procedures for different scenarios of person overboard.
  • The crew conducted regular person overboard emergency drills during the season, including actions on when a person went overboard due to rope entanglement during pot setting. They had a knife stored next to the pot winch for emergency use and a person overboard ladder stored close by and readily accessible.

Safety message

This hazard situation was readily identified by the master and crew as a real possibility given the nature of their pot setting tasks. They assessed the risks and how to minimise them, agreed the appropriate crew numbers for the vessel operation and updated the vessel’s safety management system’s emergency preparedness procedures. Because the emergency procedures had been regularly drilled, the crew were experienced, wearing lifejackets and the person overboard was saved quickly and was relatively unharmed. 

Useful information

Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST): Craypots – Tips for safely setting and retrieving craypots

Last updated: 

Tuesday 7 February 2023