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Marine transportation safety investigation M20A0434

Updated in April 2021: This investigation is in the report phase.

Table of contents

Sinking with loss of life

Fishing vessel Chief William Saulis
Digby, Nova Scotia

The occurrence

On 15 December 2020, the fishing vessel Chief William Saulis was returning from scalloping when its emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) activated 12 nautical miles north-northeast of Digby, Nova Scotia. Search and rescue efforts were initiated after the vessel could not be reached via very high frequency (VHF) radiotelephone or by phone. The body of one crew member was recovered, and the other five crew members are reported missing.

On 16 January 2021, the vessel was located, sunk in 66 m of water, approximately two nautical miles north-northwest of Delaps Cove, NS. To date, the TSB has successfully collected the information it requires without access to the vessel itself. Should the vessel be recovered at a future date, the wreckage would be examined for additional information.

The TSB is investigating.

Media materials

Deployment notice


TSB will deploy a team to Hillsburn, Nova Scotia, following the sinking of the fishing vessel Chief William Saulis

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 16 December 2020 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) will deploy a team of investigators to Hillsburn, Nova Scotia, to investigate the sinking of the fishing vessel Chief William Saulis that occurred on 15 December 2020. The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrence.

Investigation information

Map showing the location of the occurrence


Photo of Christopher Morrow

Chris Morrow has been employed as an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board since 2003, focussing mainly on fishing vessel accidents. Before joining the TSB, Mr. Morrow spent 25 years at sea, most on offshore fishing vessels and the remainder in the oil, gas, and seismic industries. He holds a Fishing Master Class 1 and Master, Intermediate Voyage certificates.

Class of investigation

This is a class 3 investigation. These investigations analyze a small number of safety issues, and may result in recommendations. Class 3 investigations are generally completed within 450 days. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.