CONCERNS have been raised over the safety of small fishing vessels, following the sinking of a Leigh trawler.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published a preliminary report about the sinking of the 40ft trawler Louisa and the loss of her skipper, fisherman Colin Dolby.

It has linked the incident with that of the Georgie Fisher trawler which sank off King’s Lynn, while dredging for mussels just days after the Louisa went down in November. It says the two cases cast doubt on the safety of such vessels.

The Georgie Fisher was laden with 14 tonnes of catch and heading into shallow water when it became stuck after trying to turn suddenly and listed enough to take on water.

Despite the skipper’s efforts, he was unable to free the trawler and it capsized. Unlike the Louisa, the trawler had been out with another vessel, the Sunny Morn, which was able to rescue the three crewmen before the boat sank. The vessel was salvaged the following day.

The report says the Louisa had been raking the seabed for white weed off Shoebury on November 10, when the weather deteriorated.

With winds gusting up to gale force and rough seas, she foundered just more than one nautical mile off Southend Pier. No distress signal was received.

Mr Dolby, 47, has since been officially classed as lost at sea. His boat was recovered from the seabed two days later.

The report concludes no further investigation is needed by the branch, but it said: “The chief inspector of marine accidents has written to the chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency highlighting this accident, along with the capsize of the under 12m fishing vessel Georgie Fisher on November 26, 2008.

“Both represent further examples of the foundering or capsizing of small fishing vessels, identified as an area of concern.”

But Leigh fisherman Paul Gilson said the two incidents bore no similarities.

He said: “Colin was in gale force conditions and the other boat wasn’t.