Tug company fined in UK court for unsafe work practices leading to crewman’s death

Millgarth (Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Rob Foy)

A UK court has fined towage company Svitzer Marine £2 million (US$2.4 million) for unsafe work practices that resulted in the death of a crewman in an incident that occurred on the River Mersey on January 27, 2019.

On the said date, 62-year-old Ian Webb was working as the chief engineer on the tug Millgarth when it was about to set sail on the Mersey out of Tranmere as the area was experiencing storm force conditions.

An investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) revealed that Mr Webb had attempted to step down from the jetty at Tranmere onto a wet fender on the tug, which was rolling in the water due to the adverse weather. However, he lost his footing and fell into the river.

Mr Webb was subsequently pulled out of the water. Tragically, he was later pronounced deceased as a result of cold water immersion.

The MCA investigation revealed that Svitzer Marine had not carried out a risk assessment of the Tranmere jetties even after vessel crews had already raised their concerns prior to the incident. No instruction had been provided on the proper installation and operation of rescue equipment, nor did the company ensure the execution of safety drills.

The sentencing, including the announcement of the fine, was held at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, February 20. Svitzer Marine was also made to pay an additional £136,711 (US$164,307) in costs.

The judge presiding over the case remarked during sentencing that the incident was “avoidable” and that defendant Svitzer Marine should have become more aware of the possible risks after these were highlighted by “previous events.”

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