UK court fines Svitzer Marine over tug crewman’s death

A UK court has fined Svitzer Marine £2m ($2.4m) over unsafe working practices that led to the death of a tug crewman in January 2019.

Svitzer Marine pleaded guilty in a Liverpool Court to failing to operate a vessel safely and failing to provide a safe system of work, causing what was described as an “avoidable tragedy” in which 62-year-old Ian Webb fell into the water and died.

The death resulted an investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) which identified several company failures.

The incident occurred on January 27th 2019, after Svitzer Marine’s tug Millgarth cast off from the Tranmere north jetty in the river Mersey, in storm force conditions.

Webb, the vessel’s chief engineer, released the mooring lines and attempted to return to the tug by stepping down from the jetty on to a narrow, wet fender. The tug was free from the jetty and rolling in the swell of the river. Webb ultimately fell into the river.

He was eventually rescued by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, but later died from the effects of cold water immersion.

The MCA investigation found that Svitzer Marine had not completed a risk assessment of the Tranmere jetties, despite crews raising concerns.

The MCA determined that Svitzer Marine had failed to instruct crews in how to operate rescue equipment, failed to ensure rescue equipment was correctly fitted, and failed to ensure safety drills were being conducted.

A judge levied a find of £2 million against Svitzer Marine and ordered the company to pay £136,711 costs. “This operation was inherently unsafe in any conditions, but in these conditions even more so,” the judge said. “Previous events should have put the defendant on notice,” he added.