Maritime & Coastguard Agency investigation leads to fine for unsafe vessel operation

Published: 05/04/2018

A company and its sole director who owned and ran a small passenger vessel have been fined a total of £8,000 with another £8,000 costs by Bromley Magistrates, after pleading guilty to operating an unsafe vessel.

The Duchess M is small passenger vessel that was used to operate the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry service. The Duchess M is owned by Lower Thames & Medway Passenger Boat Co. Ltd (LTMPB).  John Robert Potter of Tonbridge in Kent is the sole director of the company. 

On 29 September 2016, the vessel was on a routine trip from Tilbury Landing Stage to Gravesend, leaving the pier at 5.40am. About ten minutes later as she was approaching Gravesend, the main engine cut out without warning. There was a minor collision with another vessel.  The vessel anchored as a precaution. 

Following this incident, the Duchess M was inspected by an official from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and detained as a result of deficiencies.

After further inspections on 21 November 2016 and 6 January 2017, the Duchess M was eventually released from detention.

Following an investigation by the MCA’s Enforcement Unit, the decision was made to prosecute Mr Potter and the company.

Mr Potter pleaded found guilty to the unsafe operation of a vessel. He was fined a total of £3,000.  The Lower Thames & Medway Passenger Boat Co. Ltd (LTMPB) also pleaded guilty to the unsafe operation of a vessel and were fined a total of £5,000 with £8,017.13 costs. 

In handing out the fine, yesterday (5 April) the magistrates said safety of vessels in public use is a very important issue.

Mike Greenwood, Technical Manager for the Thames area with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘Maintenance should be an ongoing matter for the operator of any vessel.  Problems should not be allowed to build up as this may affect the safety of the vessel. 

'It is also of great concern to the MCA that deficiencies from a previous inspection had been reported to MCA as corrected, but the more recent inspection showed, in fact, that this was not the case.’