Operator of Banff trawler fined over crew member’s death

Operator of Banff trawler fined over crew member’s death
MB Aquarius

The operator of a North Sea trawler has been fined £50,000 over safety failures which led to the death of a crewman.

Annang Nuertey, from Ghana, was knocked from the Banff-registered Aquarius off Aberdeen, near Girdleness Lighthouse, in August 2015.

He was not wearing a lifejacket, and sank out of view, according to the BBC.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch previously said the vessel’s crew were not adequately prepared to deal with emergencies.

Buckie-based MB Aquarius Ltd has now pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

The court heard that Mr Nuertey was struck by a piece of trawl wire and thrown overboard.

The incident was investigated by Police Scotland and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The investigation found that the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks involved in the task of marking the trawl wire.

They had also failed to properly plan and supervise the task and ensure that there was a safe system of work in place.

“This sad incident should serve as a reminder to vessel operators and the fishing industry that they should ensure that they are familiar with, and adhere to, the regulations and that failure to do so can have tragic consequences,” says a Crown Office spokesman.

The Marine Accident Investigation (MAIB) Branch’s report, released in 2016, said the vessel’s crew had not been adequately prepared to deal with emergency situations.

A major air and sea search was only launched after the alarm was raised when Annang Nuertey disappeared from view.

MAIB said the accident could have been avoided if risks had been properly assessed, and the catching of fish had not been a priority over safety, according to the BBC.

The report said: “The energy with which the crewman was lifted off the deck and catapulted overboard would almost certainly have severely stunned and disorientated him, and was probably sufficient to cause internal injuries.

“Nevertheless, Annang was alive when he entered the water and was able to keep himself afloat for several minutes.

“When the crew raised the alarm the skipper’s initial reaction was to focus on monitoring Annang’s position in the water, and manoeuvring Aquarius astern towards him.

“The crew threw lifebuoys towards their crew mate in the water and shouted encouragement, but despite these efforts Annang soon succumbed and sank below the surface of the water.”

An extensive search was launched.

MAIB said that about 15 minutes after the crewman landed in the water, having realised the attempts to rescue him had failed, the skipper used his mobile phone to raise the alarm.

The report explained: “The actions taken by the skipper and his crew to recover the casualty were not in line with the guidance provided by the MCA for a man overboard situation, and fell well short of standard responses taught on training courses.

“Of particular note, the alarm was not raised until after the crewman had sunk below the surface of the water.”

It went on: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency had surveyed and inspected Aquarius on numerous occasions during the previous nine years.

“It had identified Aquarius as a poorly run vessel and issued it with 137 deficiencies; many of these related to safety management and were of a repetitive nature.

“The underlying factors that contributed to this accident included a total lack of proactive safety management, a poor level of onboard safety culture, and the crew suffering from tiredness and fatigue.

“Recommendations have been made to the owners of Aquarius, the vessel’s manning agency, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

“These are aimed at improving the levels of safety management and emergency preparedness on board Aquarius; the working conditions and hours of rest for non-UK nationals on board UK flagged fishing vessels; and the capability of the electronic systems used by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to manage and monitor deficiencies and poor performing fishing vessels.”

More than 10 vessels were involved in the search for Annang Nuertey, including tugs, rig vessels, merchant vessels and fishing boats, according to the BBC.

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