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NTSB findings on the F/V Scandies Rose

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded its investigation into the 2019 sinking of the Fishing Vessel Scandies Rose. The Scandies Rose was enroute to fishing grounds from Kodiak when it capsized. Seven total crew members were on board. Two were rescued by the Coast Guard and the other five were not found. The report issued by the NTSB details that the probable cause of capsize was inaccurate vessel stability instructions.

The prevailing safety issue in the capsizing of the Scandies Rose was the effect of sea spray icing, which accumulated fast on the surfaces and exterior parts of the boat. Freezing spray building up on the vessel and rigging causes the center of gravity to shift up on the boat. This shift decreases the stability dramatically increasing the chances of rolling. The Scandies Rose started accumulating ice at 02:00 AM. By 8:37 PM the vessel had developed a 20 degree starboard list, with extreme ice accumulation. 

The report expanded on inaccurate stability instructions. Stability instructions for vessels account for a minimum set amount of weight for added ice; there are no guidelines on how to factor in ice accumulation of various fishing gear like crab pots. Crab pots accumulate ice both externally and internally, adding a substantial amount more weight in icing conditions.

The vessel did have an EPIRB on board, yet after the capsizing there was no signal received. The surviving crew members did not note having seen the EPIRB while abandoning ship. No crew member aboard the vessel had a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), which are handheld devices that operate as an EPIRB. (Regulation does not currently require PLB’s on commercial fishing vessels). 

The tragedy of the Scandies Rose was an example of how lack of early action can compound a dangerous situation into a deadly one. At 7:15 PM the captain took a watch of the developing list and harsh winds. Around 8:00 PM the captain made several calls citing the increasingly dangerous situation and mentioning the need to seek shelter. An hour after making calls the captain communicated to one fisherman that he had a 20 degree list. The captain did not broadcast a mayday call until 9:55 PM. The majority of the crew was not alerted until the vessel started to capsize. 

Notifying the Coast Guard of an emergency when it is first recognized as an emergency allows the Coast Guard to have time to gather and deploy assets if necessary. This allows for a quicker and more successful rescue. You can always notify the Coast Guard that the emergency has been resolved, but you cannot go back in time to notify them. 

Taking early and substantial action in emergencies saves lives. In an interview with one of two surviving crew members, Jon Lawler talked about being blindsided by the sinking of the vessel, “And I’m just trying to figure out, how did it go from nothing to, like, the boat is literally leaving us now?” (KTUU). Effective communication between the captain and the rest of their crew allows time for the crew to make an informed decision. 

The crew's awareness of the emergency may have allowed them to activate their emergency response including making a timely MAYDAY call or beginning communication with the Coast Guard, activation of the EPIRB, donning of immersion suits, deployment of the liferaft, and gathering of other emergency equipment such as flares. This would have maximized chances of survival. Conducting monthly drills gives crews the skills and ability to respond as efficiently as possible when seconds count. Sign up for or request a drill conductor class and a stability class in your area. 

USCG 2024 Operational Safety Information for Commercial Crabbing Vessels:

USCG-OCVC Safety Booklet (REV6)
Download PDF • 20.31MB

USCG Stability Resources:


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