A new report has identified several safety failings aboard a boat where a fisherman suffered fatal head injuries off the coast of Aberdeen.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found that a crew member on the Olivia Jean was struck by moving fishing equipment, resulting in deadly crush injuries.
The body criticised ship owners TN Enterprises for not having enough measures in place to prevent such a tragedy.
Fisherman died more than a week later
The incident happened on the night of June 28, 2019, when the scallop dredger was approximately 39 miles north-east of Aberdeen.
At around 10pm, an Indonesian engineer was working on deck when he was struck on the head by a scallop dredge towing bar.
The 36-year-old man suffered crush injuries to his head and was airlifted from the vessel to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for emergency treatment.
He died 12 days later after being transferred to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
Probe uncovers failings
MAIB worked alongside Police Scotland, Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the circumstances of what was described as an “unexpected death”.
The MAIB report identified several key safety issues, including that deck operations were not properly supervised or controlled.
Communication between crew members was said to be hampered by a “lack of common language and the poor level of spoken English”.
It further stated: “The controls listed in the vessel’s risk assessment to mitigate the severity were not being followed at the time of the accident.
“The vessel’s safety management system was incomplete and was not being properly used or maintained on board Olivia Jean.”
Need for wide-ranging changes
A “weak” safety culture across the fleet of fishing vessels owned by Olivia Jean’s managers, TN Enterprises, was also cited.
Recommendations have been made to TN Enterprises, aimed at improving safety management on board its fleet.
These include the “utilisation and full implementation of a fishing safety management system, as recommended by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency”.
Company has troubled past
The incident is not the company’s first to attract opprobrium from safety bodies.
Annan-based TN Enterprises’ sole director is fishing entrepreneur Tom Nicholson.
Mr Nicholson, 58, and 40-year-old son Christopher are the two directors of the TN Enterprises subsidiary TN Trawlers, which six years ago was at the centre of a case described as one of the worst safety breaches in years.
The firm and the directors had been accused of putting financial gain ahead of the lives of their crews after being ordered to pay almost £150,000 in costs for a series of serious safety breaches.
The offences related to three vessels owned by the company, including the Olivia Jean, Philomena and Georgelou N, and covered a period between November 2009 and June 2011.
Southampton Crown Court was told that investigators from the MCA found that unauthorised modifications had been made to the Olivia Jean.
These included the addition of a crane on a raised platform, holes in the forward watertight bulkhead to take larger conveyor belts, and the addition of a generator set which was positioned over an access hatchway in the forecastle space.
The scallop dredger was only authorised to use 14 dredges but records indicated 18 were in use.
Examinations of the same records also showed that the Olivia Jean was carrying more deck cargo than permitted in its stability rules.
The vessel also operated under an exemption allowing the removal of the rescue boat if a crew of six or less was on board.
But eight crewmen were on board the vessel.
After the hearing, Captain Jeremy Smart, the MCA’s head of enforcement, condemned the company’s safety record, accusing the company of a “blatant disregard for safety standards, one of the worst that the MCA has come across in past years”.