Fishing vessel owner fined for putting crew lives at risk

Published: 01/12/2017

The owner of a fishing vessel was fined a total of £4000 at Stornoway Sheriff Court for failing to secure the safe operations of his vessel in a prosecution brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. 

Austen Campbell, owner of the fishing vessel ‘Ocean Spirit (SY2)’ pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, in that he failed to secure the safe operation of the vessel. He was fined £4000.

On 12 March 2015, Stornoway Coastguard received a call from the girlfriend of the Skipper of Ocean Spirit (SY2) after he asked her to call them and report that the vessel was taking water and that the radio was not working.

The lifeboat was alerted and escorted the Ocean Spirit SY2 back to Stornoway safely.

A surveyor from the MCA’s Glasgow Marine Office inspected the vessel and found a number of serious deficiencies, including an unreported change of main engine, no fixed CO² system for the engine room, no firefighting equipment, no operational lifesaving equipment and non-programmable radios. Due to the condition of the vessel it was detained and prevented from going to sea.

A report was sent to the Procurator Fiscal in Stornoway. On the 22 September Mr Campbell admitted breaches of Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 as the owner of the Ocean Spirit SY2.

In sentencing, the Sheriff Mr Sutherland wanted to send a clear message to irresponsible vessel owners saying:  ‘much has been said about safety in the past, as the owner you are ultimately responsible for the boat going to sea'.

Fraser Heasley, MCA Technical Operations Manager for the West said: “This is an extremely serious matter. The MCA inspection revealed unreported, significant alterations to equipment and serious deficiencies with safety equipment on the vessel. In this case the owner showed complete disregard for the safety of the crew he engaged to operate the vessel.  He put lives at risk, which is completely unacceptable. We all know that fishing is a dangerous job, so not having the proper safety equipment makes an already hazardous job a potentially deadly venture.  The MCA will actively pursue anyone who operates in such a reckless manner.”