Asbestos fine ‘is a lesson for all ship owners’

City of Westminster suction dredger vessel

Nautilus International has welcomed a court’s decision to impose fines and costs totalling more than £130,000 on a shipping company which failed to act on a report warning of the presence of asbestos onboard one of its vessels.

Following a hearing at Southampton Magistrates Court, Tarmac Marine Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £10,424.57 towards the cost of the prosecution, as well as a victim surcharge of £120 after admitting four offences under merchant shipping health and 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.

The court heard that the company had failed to act on a survey report which identified the presence of asbestos in pipework onboard the dredger City of Westminster in January 2014 and recommended that it be dealt with immediately.

The problems came to light in January last year, when the ship was asked for an asbestos-free certificate before going into drydock. Shore-based management asked crew members to cover the affected areas with standard paint, but they refused the request and the company was forced to disclose that the pipework did contain asbestos.

One crew member alerted Nautilus about the situation and the Union informed the Maritime & Coastguard Agency under its whistle-blowing policy, pressing for the company to be investigated and prosecuted.

Charles Boyle, head of Nautilus legal services, commented: ‘We deal with many cases involving members suffering from the terrible effects of asbestos exposure and we take this issue very seriously indeed. We hope that this case will send out a strong message to companies of the need to comply with their responsibilities and that negligence of this kind is wholly unacceptable.’

Captain Jeremy Smart, head of the MCA Enforcement Unit, said Tarmac had shown ‘scant regard’ for their employees. ‘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 non-compliance of health and safety rules, pollution control or anything else untoward to contact the Agency,’ he added.

 

Monday, April 10, 2017