UK. Boat owner jailed for unsafe operation of fishing vessel

Thursday, 03 August 2017


The owner of a fishing vessel has been sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to two charges brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) for the unsafe operation of a fishing vessel and failing to ensure that the gas cooker was properly maintained.

Timothy Bowman Davies (45) from Milford Haven was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court yesterday (2 August). 

Two crew members on board the fishing vessel, called the 'Eshcol', owned by Mr Bowman-Davies, died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2014.

The ‘Eshcol’ had arrived in Whitby in the early morning of the 14 January 2014 to discharge her catch of scallops.  On board were a crew of three (3) including the skipper Mark Arries and Edward (Eddie) Ide. Mr Bowman-Davies collected the catch that evening and dropped off stores for the ‘Eshcol’ and two other boats owned by him.  Once done, Mr Bowman-Davies headed home. The third crew man headed off to his girlfriend’s house for the night with the permission of skipper Mr Arries.  Mr Arries and Mr Ide spent the rest of the night on-board the 'Eshcol'.

The following morning no movement was seen on the 'Eshcol'.    Crewmen on the other vessels nearby became concerned. Two of them broke into the wheelhouse/cabin of the 'Eshcol' and discovered the bodies of Mr Arries and Mr Ide.  The Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) fired cooker was seen to be lit when they entered.  The emergency services were called.  Unfortunately Mr Arries and Mr Ide were pronounced deceased at the scene.  A post-mortem showed they died as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The ‘Eshcol’ was not fitted with a carbon monoxide detector and the LPG Cooker was subsequently shown to be defective. It had not been serviced or examined by a GAS SAFE engineer. 

The ‘Eshcol’ was inspected by the MCA and detained with thirty four (34) deficiencies.

In passing sentence HHJ Bayliss QC said:  ‘Those who employ others and whose actions create a risk of harm must take the consequences when harm results, such as here.  The least possible sentence I can impose, based on the mitigating factors, is 15 months in prison.’

He said that it was because the offences were so serious and that two men had died, he could impose a custodial sentence. 

Mr David Fenner, Fishing Vessel Policy Manager with the MCA, said it was strongly recommended that carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are installed in every enclosed space that contains a fired cooking or heating appliance and where an engine exhaust penetrates through the wheelhouse or crew space. Fired appliances apply to, but may not be limited to, appliances fired by LPG, diesel or paraffin.

He went on to say:  ‘This recommendation is being taken forward as part of a wider package of safety measures for fishing vessels. It has been subject to extensive public consultation and will be implemented as soon as parliamentary time allows and it is our expectation that this will be early in the Autumn.

‘I would also like to thank North Yorkshire Police for their help and assistance in bring this prosecution forward.’

Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of the MCA's Enforcement Unit, said: ‘The risks from carbon monoxide are well known and that is why specific safety measures have to be taken. Sadly, two people lost their lives in this case.  We hope that this successful prosecution sends a strong message to the fishing community that unsafe practices will be taken seriously and action will be taken so more lives aren’t lost in the future.’

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is a frontline emergency response agency of the Department for Transport. As well as delivering maritime search and rescue through HM Coastguard (one of the four UK emergency services), the MCA is responsible for maritime regulation, safety and counter-pollution.

For further information about this or any MCA news story, please contact the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Press Office on 020381 72222 or Public.Relations@mcga.gov.uk

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