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Hebrides News


Owner of unseaworthy trawler is fined

1 December 2017

Rescue services were called to aid an unseaworthy trawler fishing for prawns in the Minch a court has heard.


The MFV Ocean Spirit started taking on water after the weather deteriorated on the afternoon of 7 March 2015.


Despite the emergency the skipper still had her nets down and required to be “persuaded” to drop the gear, Stornoway Sheriff Court was told.


A Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspector later found a number of defects onboard.


Vessel owner Austen Campbell pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the vessel operated in a safe manner.


Sheriff David Sutherland fined him £4000.


The court previously heard Campbell was working elsewhere and delegated the skipper’s role to a crewman who held the appropriate certificate.


The skipper had authorisation to buy goods for the vessel from chandlers on account, said Campbell’s lawyer.


Campbell thought the skipper would have attended to defects but he did not.


Procurator fiscal Karen Smith previously told the court the skipper sounded “quite panicked” during a call from the boat to his girlfriend and she raised the alarm.


Stornoway coastguard contacted the boat via VHF radio and then immediately dispatched a rescue helicopter and Stornoway lifeboat to the scene, the court heard.


The maritime emergency services found the vessel still had its fishing gear deployed and taking on water, said the fiscal.


The engines were restarted and pumps operated to discharge the water.


The Ocean Spirit headed to harbour under her own steam.


Ms Smith said the safety inspection discovered deck caulking was missing so water could enter into spaces below.


The liferaft was not properly connected to its hydrostatic release mechanism and two navigation lights were not working, she added.


Buoyancy aids were incapable of being inflated as they the way they were stored outside meant they would not have operated if required.


The radio system could not transmit an automatic distress signal with the vessel’s identity number.


The carbon monoxide alarm in the crew’s quarters was not working, added the fiscal.


Solicitor Michael Chapman explained Campbell received a call from the skipper saying he was in difficulties and had switched off the engine as water came in.


Campbell instructed the skipper to restart the engines and switch on the pumps.


Despite the problems the “skipper had to be persuaded to drop the nets,” according to Mr Chapman.


The lawyer said it was the skipper who had moved the buoyancy aids outside.


The radio issue was because the set was bought second hand and had not updated, he added.


The caulking problems was due to the age of the vessel.


Campbell “accepts he took his eye of the ball,” he explained.


He spent £1500 to remedy the issues and make the vessel seaworthy again before selling it, the court heard.