Open doors likely cause of 2008 sinking

Watertight doors left open on an overloaded fishing vessel during a storm likely caused the ship to sink off the coast of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, according to a report released Tuesday by federal investigators.

The Katmai, a 93-foot vessel, sank in October 2008 with a crew of 11 aboard. Four men survived in a life raft, but five others died. Two crew members were never found.

The National Transportation Safety Board's report said the doors from the main deck to the processing space and lazarette allowed water to get in, leading to flooding and sinking. A lazarette is a storage place below deck.

The report also faulted the ship's master, citing that his decisions to continue operations as the storm approached and to overload the ship contributed to the accident. The Katmai was carrying about 120,000 pounds of frozen cod, the board said, twice the weight listed in a stability report for the ship.

The board said another contributing factor was the failure of the ship's owner to ensure that information given to the master on keeping the boat stable was current and to see that he understood the information and operated the ship accordingly.

NTSB said the ship's last stability analysis was in 1996, and did not account for such things as a change in fishery from shrimp to Pacific cod.

There were no mandatory stability standards that applied to the ship, NTSB said.

The ship was originally built as a shrimp trawler for the Gulf of Mexico and was later modified. It was owned by Seattle-based Katmai Fisheries Inc., which the NTSB said is no longer in business.