Monday, 29 September 2014


A port operator has today (Monday 29 September) pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches, following the deaths of three crew members of a tug which capsized on the River Clyde in 2007. Clydeport Operations Ltd, who were sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh, received fines totalling £650,000.

In December 2007 the Flying Phantom was one of three tugs assisting the 70,000-tonne cargo ship Red Jasmine as it made its way along the River Clyde. As they approached the Erskine Bridge, the Flying Phantom was secured to the bow of the Red Jasmine, which was transporting animal feed.

Just before 6pm, in thick fog, the Flying Phantom called the ship to say they had grounded and the pilot instructed the tug to let go the line. That was the last communication. The line came taut and the tug was pulled over and capsized – a situation known as “girting”.

The tug’s master, Stephen Humphreys, 33, chief engineer, Robert Cameron, 65, and rating, Eric Blackley, 57, lost their lives. The mate, Brian Aitchison, 37, managed to climb clear before the tug sank and was rescued.

Last week (Tuesday 23 September) in the Edinburgh High Court, Clydeport Operations Limited, owned by Peel Ports Limited, admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.  The company accepted that between 29 December 2000 and 19 December 2007 there had been a systemic failure in risk assessments and safe systems of work. The company was fined £650,000. The tug operator Svitzer Marine Limited had previously admitted to proximate cause of the deaths.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) took over the maritime element of the investigation from Strathclyde Police, once it was determined that the deaths were not suspicious. However, the investigation remained under the control of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The MCA found that there were also shortcomings in the application of the Port Marine Safety code in that neither the company secretary, nor the operations/human resources director, received training to adequately fulfil their role as the designated person with responsibility to ensure health and safety.

The charges included a similar accident with a ship, the Abu Egila, at the same place in September 2000 when the Flying Phantom was also the lead tug. On this occasion the tug was let go and there were no injuries.

Sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh on 29 September the judge, Lord Kinclaven, said: “The charges are severally and jointly very serious and extended for a long period of time, from 2000 to 2007.”

Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of Enforcement at the MCA, said: “This was a tragic event and the MCA would like to express its sincere condolences to the families involved, who have endured a very difficult number of years. The investigation highlighted some very serious shortcomings in Clydeport Operations Limited’s safety management.”

Friday, 26 September 2014


The importance of the superyacht industry to the United Kingdom economy was the theme of a keynote speech delivered by the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Sir Alan Massey, to leading yacht builders, operators and owners this week.

Sir Alan was at the Monaco Yacht Show, representing the UK’s Shipping Minister, John Hayes.  Also in the UK contingent were Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Paris and representatives of the UK Chamber of Shipping, together with the industry body, Superyacht UK.

The MCA is a world leader in maritime administration and the originator of the Large Commercial Yacht Code, LY3, which covers safety for yachts that are more than 24-metres in length. Ensign, the MCA’s large yacht services division, offers sector-leading advice and guidance in areas including the LY3 code, the Maritime Labour Convention and Seafarers’ Standards.

Opening his presentation, Sir Alan highlighted “the commitment and continued support the industry receives from the MCA, on behalf of the Government”, which “extends to both the surveying and training aspects of the industry.”

He outlined new initiatives in yacht engineer officer training, including fully transferrable qualifications between different categories of vessel. The MCA, he said, is “one of a very few maritime administrations in the world dealing specifically with yacht qualifications under STCW.” (STCW – the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers).

Sir Alan also spoke of his pride in the work the MCA is doing to implement Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) which, he said, “… is so important for the safety and wellbeing of all those who earn their living at sea.”

The contribution of the industry to the work of the MCA was also praised. Sir Alan said: “Those of us working in the field of standard setting and regulation are grateful for the solid support we get from industry – including the Professional Yachting Association and others – in collaborating in the industry working groups for LY3 and the Passenger Yacht Code.” 

With a current focus on coding for passenger yachts – which Sir Alan highlighted as a sector that was clearly growing in confidence with new vessels under construction - the next task for the MCA would be the development of standards for sailing passenger yachts, working with the Superyacht Builders Association. 

Sir Alan closed his presentation by thanking his audience for their “continued support and cooperation with each other, and with the MCA.  It is a relationship we welcome and treasure and want to see go from strength to strength.”

During the Monaco Yacht Show detailed information on Ensign was available to visitors and exhibitors; MCA surveyors and its Head of Seafarer Services and Ship Registration were on hand to answer questions relating to current regulations and policies across the field of commercial yacht coding, surveying, training and certification, and United Kingdom ship registration. The show closes on Saturday 27 September.

Further information about Ensign is available at , or call +44 (0)191 4969917.  

Thursday, 25 September 2014


The way the Coastguard delivers the coordination of search and rescue operations on our coast and out at sea is changing.

The modernisation programme will see the National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) and 10 other Coastguard Operation Centres around the UK operate as an integrated network managing workload on a national basis. This means in a search and rescue operation there will be a much bigger and better support network available nationally to help Coastguards who may be dealing with multiple incidents at once.

The public won’t notice any difference. If you call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, or issue a mayday broadcast, there will still be someone there to help. There will be no reduction in rescue resources either. The Coastguard Rescue Teams, lifeboats, rescue helicopters and other rescue units that are sent out to help you will be unaffected.

National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC)
At the heart of this new set up is the NMOC based in Hampshire. After months of extensive tests and exercises, the centre went live in September 2014, taking on operations from both Solent and Portland Coastguard.

47 Coastguards are currently working at the new centre. This will increase to 96 Coastguards once the national network is fully operational by the end of 2015.


September 2014
Solent Coastguard
September 2014

Portland Coastguard
September 2014

Falmouth Coastguard

October 2014
Brixham Coastguard
November 2014

Holyhead Coastguard

December 2014
Liverpool Coastguard
January 2015

Milford Haven Coastguard

February 2015
Swansea Coastguard
March 2015

Humber Coastguard

April 2015
Thames Coastguard
June 2015

Aberdeen Coastguard

July 2015
Shetland Coastguard

August 2015
Belfast Coastguard

September 2015
Stornoway Coastguard

October 2015
Dover Coastguard

December 2015
London Coastguard

December 2015

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Carrying numbers of passengers, including schoolchildren, far in excess of its license, has cost representatives of a Hampshire ferry company fines and costs totalling £12,340.

At Portsmouth Magistrates Court today (Tuesday 23 September) the master, operator and owner of the ferry, Tina Maria, were each charged with four counts of sailing without a valid passenger certificate, and two charges of sailing with insufficient liferafts onboard. All three pleaded guilty to all charges, which were brought by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Tina Maria is an 11-metre long, single-engined boat used as a ferry between Hayling Island and Eastney, across the entrance to Langstone Harbour.  The vessel is certified to carry 12 passengers and two crew. On four occasions in January and February of this year the boat, which is operated by Hayling Ferry Ltd, landed between 16 and 27 passengers at Hayling Island; in all cases the majority of passengers were children returning home from schools in Portsmouth. 

The Master of the Tina Maria, Geoffrey Oliver (age 58) was today fined £900 plus costs of £400.  He has to pay a victim surcharge of £20. The owner of the vessel, Frida Edwards (age 54) was fined £600, plus costs of £300.  She also has to pay a victim surcharge of £20. The operator of the Tina Maria, Hayling Ferry Ltd, was fined £6,000, plus costs of £4,000. The company will have to pay a victim surcharge of £100.

On all the occasions listed in court, the vessel had inadequate lifesaving equipment for all the adults and children on board: Tina Maria carried 14 adult lifejackets; 12 child lifejackets and had liferaft capacity for 18 passengers and crew.  

Captain Amir Esmiley, Surveyor-in-Charge at the MCA’s Southampton Marine Office, said:

“There was a clear lack of concern for the safety of passengers which was made worse as the majority of people on the four crossings were children. The limits on the number of passengers that can be on a vessel are there to ensure that everyone has a proper lifejacket and a place in a liferaft.”

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


The operator of a Portsmouth-based barge has today been made to pay almost £111,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a breach of maritime legislation.
Serco Ltd admitted an offence at Portsmouth Crown Court in relation to the health and safety of workers aboard the barge 1706, which is operated as part of a service contract with the Ministry of Defence. The primary function of the barge is to collect waste products from naval vessels when they were moored in Portsmouth.

On the 6 July 2011, barge 1706 was secured alongside a warship at Portsmouth Naval Base and was taking waste water from the vessel. A short while later, the crew started to smell the distinctive 'rotten eggs' odour of hydrogen sulphide (H2S).

A crewman collected the only personal gas detector on board and, as soon as he went on deck, the monitor alarmed at 57 parts per million (ppm) – well above the prescribed danger limits of 5ppm (8 hour time-weighted average (TWA)) and 10ppm (15 minute TWA).
The crew contacted the Operations Manager but the process was not stopped as it was decided that the monitor was malfunctioning. A safety boat was sent to the barge to standby as a precaution. A short while later, the gas monitor’s alarm was set off once again, this time registering at 87ppm. At this stage the crew started to feel unwell and the decision was then made to stop the operation and evacuate the barge. The two crew were taken to hospital for treatment.

An investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) showed a number of health and safety failings by the operator. These included unsafe practice by leaving the tank lids open; safety equipment, such as the gas monitor, not being properly maintained or calibrated, and the crew not properly trained in how to use the safety equipment.

Today Serco Ltd were fined £50,000, with £60,716 in costs and 
a £120  victim surcharge. The court took into account the early guilty plea and, in passing, sentence HH Judge Hetherington said: "There was a failure of local managment to ensure that the written instructions were complied with. This failure is made all the worse because the point had been identified that on more than one occasion audits had been carried out and it was noted that tank content guages were not active and the raising of tank lids was used instead.

"It is of course significant that, despite the serious risk, it was fortunate that there were no deaths or serious injuries."

Julie Carlton, Seafarer Safety and Health Manager at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “This was a very serious yet avoidable incident. A properly functioning safety management system would have identified the need to maintain and calibrate the gas monitor correctly, ensuring it was in good working order. Then perhaps the crew and their supervisor would have trusted its reading, and recognised the need to stop the operation as soon as the hazard was identified.

“Companies must constantly be alert to risks and hazards involved in their operations and review and update their safety management systems at regular intervals accordingly. Front line staff are an excellent source of identifying risks and hazards and should be encouraged to speak up when they identify any. Their active input is key to the development of an effective safety management system. All need to be fully aware of safety procedures and understand the dangers of not following them.”


Coastguards Dave Edmunds and Steve Caddick are more used to saving lives at sea but on Sunday 21 September while on their way to deal with a call out, they arrived at the scene of a woman trapped upside in a car while on their way Runcorn Bridge.  Using their training the two Coastguards from Crosby instantly took charge.

While Steve was checking the car and preparing the immediate response, Dave called Liverpool Coastguard to request assistance from the Police, Fire Service and Ambulance.  While dealing with the original callout, the Coastguards in the operations room at Liverpool then coordinated the other emergency services to the scene of the accident.

As the car was full of smoke, Steve took the fire extinguisher from their vehicle, made his way to the car and as the engine was still running he was able to turn it off and used the extinguisher on the exposed engine which stopped the smoke.  All this while he was talking to the casualty and reassuring her that help was on its way.  Steve then kicked out the back window of the car to let the smoke escape and as no more was being produced by the engine, the car was soon clear.

While Steve was dealing with the casualty, Dave was dealing with the bystanders.  Dave instructed the public to make a cordon a safe distance from the accident.  By using the Coastguard vehicle’s blue lights he was able to warn approaching traffic of the accident and keep the area clear for the other emergency services before he helped Steve with the casualty.

Both Coastguards used their training in the fundamentals of first aid and reassured her throughout the incident.  Both Dave and Steve were ready to react and more than capable to remove the casualty from the car if the situation got worse, but they correctly waited for assistance of the other emergency services.

John Hope, Sector Manager for Merseyside said:

“I’m very proud of them to say the least.  Both Dave and Steve acted instinctively to come to the aid of someone in need, using both their training and initiative.  Coastguard Rescue Officers are trained for maritime search and rescue but are trained so well that they are able to use these skills where and when they are needed.

“While at the scene, Dave was able to coordinate the public into helping and staying safe, and brief the Fire and Ambulance Services on the situation when they arrived five minutes after being called by Liverpool Coastguard. 

“Steve’s quick thinking in taking the fire extinguisher with him, identifying that the engine needed to be turned off before further action, then removing the rear window to clear the car of smoke would have made a huge difference to the casualty well being. 

“While Dave was able to brief Liverpool Coastguards who then called the other emergency services into action, we would like to remind the public that they should never attempt self rescue unless trained and equipped to do so.  Call 999 and ask for the emergency services.” 

Crosby Coastguard Rescue Team after water rescue training.

Monday, 22 September 2014


An intensive search took place off Hendon Beach, near Sunderland, after Humber Coastguard received a call, at 4pm this afternoon, that a man and woman had entered the water, apparently to attempt to rescue a dog. 

While the woman has been rescued and was helped by paramedics, the search for the man, who apparently went into the water to try  to save the woman - continued into the evening.  The dog is also believed to have made it ashore.

The search and rescue helicopter 131 from RAF Boulmer carried out a search using infra-red equipment; the Sunderland RNLI lifeboats were on scene and both the Sunderland and Seaham Coastguard Rescue Teams were also involved in the operation.  The Tyne Coastguard Sector Manager and police attended.  After a shore line search at low water after darkness the search will be suspended for the night.