Sinking of the Alaska Ranger – Fishing Master vs Captain

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April 19, 2008

Alaska Ranger

The fishing vessel Alaska Ranger, which sank last month west of Dutch Harbor had aboard both a captain and a fishing master. Tragically neither survived the sinking. Some of the testimony from crew members has been regarding the relationship between the two. From the Seattle PI coverage of the hearings in Seattle on the sinking of the Alaska Ranger:

Crewman David Hull also told the panel that he believes that the “fish masters” — crew members representing the fish buyer, in many cases Japanese-held companies, responsible for maximizing the catch — often countermanded ship captains working for the Ranger’s owner, Seattle-based Fishing Company of Alaska.

At the company, Hull said, vessel captains can be fired if they don’t follow directions given by the fish masters.

“I don’t want anyone to underestimate the power the Japanese (fish masters) have at FCA,” Hull said. “Honestly, the fish master basically runs the ship. That’s how it stands,” he added.

The Seattle times reported in an earlier article, that crewmembers interviewed testified that:

the relationship between Konno and a previous skipper of the Alaska Ranger was fraught with tension over vessel speeds through ice.

The article reports that the fishing master and the captain at one time had a “yelling match” regarding vessel speed in the ice.

Fishing vessels in Alaska, a demanding, sometime dangerous environment, are faced with balancing results, catching fish and delivering them to port, vs risk, pushing crew and vessel to the limit. How often does this result in yelling matches at sea, fishing master vs captain?


This post was written by Kennebec Captain who is Master of a large Ro-Ro and graduate of Alaska Maritime Academy where he attended classes at all four campuses: Bering Sea, Aleutian Island, South East and the Gulf. He can also be found at his blog Kennebec Captain.

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