The report into MAIB’s investigation of the capsize and sinking of the cement carrier Cemfjord in the Pentland Firth, Scotland with the loss of 8 lives on 2-3 January 2015 is now published.

In his statement to the media, Steve Clinch, The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents stated:

“The MAIB investigation found that Cemfjord capsized in extraordinarily violent sea conditions; a fatal hazard that was predictable and could have been avoided. The decision to enter the Pentland Firth, rather than seek shelter, was almost certainly a result of poor passage planning, an underestimation of the severity of the conditions and perceived or actual commercial pressure to press ahead with the voyage. Critically, this decision will also have been underpinned by an unwillingness to alter course across the heavy seas after the experience of a cement cargo shift in similar circumstances about 3 months before the accident. The appalling conditions and rapid nature of the capsize denied the crew an opportunity to issue a distress message or to escape from their ship. Although not a causal factor of the accident, it was also established that Cemfjord was only at sea because of Flag State approved exemptions from safety regulations. This tragic accident is a stark reminder of the hazards faced by mariners at sea and the factors that can influence decision making in such treacherous circumstances.”

MAIB report on the capsize and loss of cement carrier Cemfjord published


On 2 January 2015 and when fully laden, the Cyprus registered cement carrier Cemfjord capsized in extremely violent sea conditions in the Pentland Firth. The rapid nature of the capsize denied the crew an opportunity to issue a distress message or the chance to conduct a controlled abandonment of the vessel.

Safety Issues

  • Passage planning requires that all hazards are taken into account and avoided; the extraordinarily violent and fatal sea conditions encountered in the Pentland Firth were predictable and could have been avoided
  • As well as insufficient passage planning, the master’s decision to press ahead with the voyage, rather than seek shelter, was almost certainly influenced by an underestimation of the severity of the conditions, his personal determination to succeed and an unwillingness to turn the vessel across the heavy sea
  • It is likely that Cemfjord’s stability condition did not meet the required criteria making the vessel more vulnerable to capsize. An accurate stability assessment is vital for every passage
  • Cemfjord was at sea with significant safety shortcomings; there is no evidence that any consideration was given to delaying departure until these problems were fixed; instead, Flag State exemptions from safety regulations were approved to allow the ship to proceed to sea


The MAIB has made a series of safety recommendations to the vessel’s managers, Flag State and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency intended to improve the safety management of cement carriers and also review the safety arrangements in the Pentland Firth.

Full investigation report into marine accident including what happened, safety lessons and recommendations you can read at the links below:

MAIB investigation report 8-2016: Cemfjord

Annexes to MAIB investigation report 8-2016

Source: MAIB