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Firm admits failures following River Clyde deaths

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

After a tug boat sank in the River Clyde in December 2007, killing three crew members, the owner of the vessel has admitted to health and safety failures. The ‘Flying Phantom’ had been trying to guide a cargo vessel to a dock when it sank directly opposite Clydebank College in West Dumbartonshire. The tug boat capsized when thick fog rolled in and the boat’s towing winch had not released quickly enough, causing the boat to capsize by the vessel it was pulling. Three crew members lost their lives in the accident: Stephen Humphreys (33), Eric Blackley (57) and Robert Cameron (65).

The tug company Svitzer Marine Limited pleaded guilty to numerous charges concerning the safety of the vessel in Glasgow’s High Court. Failings included the lack of a safety operating procedure (after a previous grounding occurred in December 2000). A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) inquiry revealed that there had been no procedure to ensure that the tug could safely operate in foggy conditions.

Inability to learn from mistakes

Svitzer Marine apologised for “failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work” of the crew. However, many have argued that the time taken for the case to reach court has been very difficult for the families and friends of those deceased; and anger is still felt in regard to the company’s inability to learn from their previous mistakes.  

It was heard at court that the tug suffered £150,000 worth of damage when a similar accident occurred in 2000: the vessel it was towing collided with the tug in similar conditions. The firm’s fine will be decided next month.

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