Carbon monoxide tragedy is bitter lesson for commercial vessel owners and operators

Industry Database

Mark Arries, 26, and Edward Ide, 21 died in their bunks on the scalloper ‘Eshcol’ in Whitby Harbour, UK in January 2014. The men died from carbon monoxide poisoning after leaving a gas cooker burning as they slept.

Owner, Timothy Bowman-Davies was prosecuted by the MCA. He admitted failing to ensure that the ship was operated safely and that work equipment was maintained efficiently but denied that he was aware the crew were using the cooker as a heater. The court rejected this denial. After pleading guilty Mr Bowman-Davies was jailed for 15 months in August 2017.

Passing sentence, Judge Tom Bayliss stated; “Two men have died. Those who employ others and whose actions create a risk of harm must take the consequences when harm results, such as here."

According to Patrick Bond of Thomas Miller Law, a serious incident on board any vessel in UK waters will almost certainly attract the attention of the authorities. Whether an investigation is led by the MCA, the MAIB or the HSE will depend upon the circumstances. The Police may or may not take a similar interest. The area in the vicinity of a fatality may be treated as a crime scene and witnesses may be questioned with one eye on future prosecution.

The MCA and the MAIB are the lead authorities for the inspection and investigation of accidents on any ship but the HSE may be involved when problems occur in shipyards.

The various organisations claim to avoid duplication of activity where legislation overlaps and also claim to avoid placing conflicting requirements on dock operators and ship operators. In practice this is not always the case. Following a successful prosecution, the sentence can be a fine or a jail term.

Patrick recommends that advice be sought at an early stage in such cases.

By Jake Frith

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