Skipper sentenced for incident off Shetland Islands that caused death of crewman

The owner and skipper of a fishing vessel that ran aground off the Shetland Islands causing the death of a crew member has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Diamond LK6 – fitted out as a clam dredger – ran aground on 14th March 2014 with both skipper Christopher Smith and crewman Leonard Scollay ending up in the water.

Christopher Smith had pleaded guilty to a contravention of Section 58(2)(b) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 at Lerwick Sheriff Court on 13th September.

Yesterday (12th October) he was back at the court to receive his sentence.

The court had heard how on 25th March 2014 the fishing vessel Diamond sank after striking a rock in West Burra Firth in the Shetland Islands.

It had set off from Scalloway at around 5.30pm bound for fishing grounds 20 miles to the West.
At first the vessel was sheltered from the full force of the weather, but as she moved north, she became exposed to wind and sea.

The decision was made to shelter in West Burra and as the pair approached the outer channel leading to the Firth, Mr Smith handed over the navigation to Mr Scollay and went to check the engine room where he encountered and dealt with a minor leak of diesel fuel.

Both the inner and outer channel are marked with leading lights and the vessel was fitted with operational radar and electronic plotters.

Mr Smith returned to the wheelhouse and altered course to port to follow the inner channel to West Burra. Shortly after altering course, the vessel struck the rocks and issued a Mayday.

A nearby fishing vessel responded and Mr Scollay was found and recovered, before being transferred to the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter. Mr Smith was recovered by a lifeboat.

Keith Patterson, consultant fishing vessel surveyor with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: ‘This was a very tragic and entirely avoidable incident. Christopher Smith’s failure to navigate his vessel properly lead to the death of John Scollay.’

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