Marine company fined £2million after death of crewman

A marine company has been fined £2million after unsafe practice led to the death of a crewman.

Svitzer Marine Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to operate a vessel safely and failing to provide a safe system of work, causing the “avoidable tragedy” of 62-year-old Ian Webb falling into the water.

Heard at Liverpool Crown Court today, 20 February, the tragic death sparked an investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) which identified a catalogue of the company’s failures.

On the evening of Mr Webb’s death, January 27, 2019, Svitzer Marine’s tug Millgarth was cast off from the Tranmere north jetty, in the river Mersey, in storm force conditions.

Mr Webb, the vessel’s chief engineer, released the mooring lines and attempted to return to the tug, stepping down from the jetty on to a fender. The tug was free from the jetty and rolling in the swell of the river.

Expected to stand on top of a narrow, wet fender with unprotected drops either side, Mr Webb fell into the river.

He was eventually rescued by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, but Mr Webb died from the effects of cold water immersion.

The investigation by the MCA revealed Svitzer Marine had not completed a risk assessment of the Tranmere jetties, despite crews raising concerns.

Svitzer Marine had failed to instruct crews in how to operate rescue equipment, failed to ensure rescue equipment was correctly fitted, and failed to ensure safety drills were being conducted.

Svitzer Marine was fined £2million and ordered to pay £136,711 costs, totalling a sum of £2,136,711.

During the sentencing Judge Byrne described what happened as an “avoidable incident”, adding: “This operation was inherently unsafe in any conditions but in these conditions even more so.”

The judge expressed his condolences to Mr Webb’s family.

After listening to the list of failings conducted by Svitzer he said: “Previous events should have put the defendant on notice.”

MCA senior investigator Mark Flavell, leading the case, said: “My thoughts are with the family of Mr Webb, who today can take some comfort in seeing justice being served.

“Svitzer Marine has been convicted of failing to discharge properly the obligations to respect workers’ safety. Simply put, this was a fatality that should not have happened, and the company has failed Mr Webb and his family.

“This case highlights the consequences of complacency, of failure to adequately assess risks which can be prevalent in everyday tasks, and of failure to undertake safety drills to ensure crews are competent in the use of life saving equipment.

“As with most incidents of this nature, it was an avoidable tragedy, and the MCA will take action to stamp out such failures.”


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