Marine company fined over 130,000 for asbestos failures
Earlier today (Friday 7 April 2017) Tarmac Marine Ltd was fined a total of £130,544.57, for failing to properly deal with asbestos within one of their vessels and keeping their crew safe, in a prosecution brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.Tarmac Marine Ltd, who pleaded guilty to the offences, was fined £120,000 by Southampton Magistrates Court and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and £10,424.57 towards the cost of the prosecution.
The vessel ‘The City of Westminster’ is a 96 metre dredger with 12 crew operating around the UK. In January 2014 a survey identified the presence of asbestos in pipework from its build in 2008 with a recommendation that this was dealt with immediately. However, Tarmac Marine failed to act on this report and the crew were not informed of the presence of the asbestos on the vessel.
The issue came to light in January 2016 when the vessel was required to produce an asbestos free certificate to the Port of Tyne in order for it to berth. This certificate was requested by the ship’s master from the Tarmac Marine management based in Chichester. In response the crew were asked by managers to paint over the affected parts of the vessel with standard paint, in order to cover over the asbestos. The crew, having become suspicious, refused the request and Tarmac Marine management were forced to disclose to the crew that the pipework did in fact contain asbestos. A crew member subsequently informed the seaman’s union Nautilus and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency were alerted under their whistle blowing policy.
The company pleaded guilty to four offences contrary to the Merchant Shipping Act Health & Safety and Asbestos regulations including failing to carry out a risk assessment of exposure to asbestos by the crew, failing to have an asbestos management plan in place and failing to provide relevant information to workers.
Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Enforcement Unit, said: ‘Despite documented knowledge of the presence of asbestos in the vessel’s pipework, the crew were never warned of this danger and were allowed to continue working in those areas none the wiser. Tarmac Marine Ltd have shown scant regard for their employees and have failed in their responsibilities to keep their workforce as safe as it should be. The risks from asbestos exposure are well known and that is why the health and safety regulations require specific measures to be taken. We hope that this successful prosecution sends a strong message to shipping and maritime companies, no matter what their size, that the risks from asbestos will be taken seriously and action will be taken so more lives aren’t put in danger in the future. We are grateful that this case was brought to our attention through the intervention of one of the crew concerned and I would urge anyone in a similar position who knows of serious noncompliance of health and safety rules, pollution control or anything else untoward to contact the Maritime & Coastguard.’