UK. Commercial fisherman prosecuted following collision

Friday, 17 October 2008


At a hearing today in Truro Magistrates Court, the owner/skipper of a small fishing vessel was successfully prosecuted following a collision off Falmouth on the morning of the 3rd October 2007.

Early that morning a small blue wooden fishing boat had departed the Helford River for fishing grounds south of Falmouth. Onboard was a crew of three. It was just before sunrise and the weather was fine with good visibility. Navigation lights were on as was a deck light made up of fluorescent tubes. Also that morning the small fast catamaran Blithe Spirit left Falmouth with her owner/skipper Mr John Tomlinson, alone onboard.

At about 0630 there was a collision between the two vessels.

Investigations showed that neither vessel was aware of each other at any stage during the incident. This was despite the skipper of the blue wooden fishing vessel reporting that he had looked north towards Falmouth for any outbound traffic shortly before the collision. The wooden fishing vessel suffered severe damage and the three crew had to extricate themselves from wreckage of the wheelhouse. The liferaft was launched but failed to inflate. Damage was such that they could not locate their VHF radio or access their lifejackets. Eventually a mobile phone was used to raise the alarm. The Falmouth Pilot Boat came to their aid and took off the crew of three. An attempt was made to tow the wooden fishing vessel, but it sank shortly afterwards.

The owner/skipper of the Blithe Spirit, Mr Tomlinson, stated he was sitting down when suddenly he was thrown forward and suffered head injuries on the forward cabin.  Mr Tomlinson made his way back into Falmouth where he was taken to hospital for treatment for head injuries.

John Tomlinson pleaded guilty to one charge brought under section 58 of the merchant Shipping Act 1995 (Conduct endangering ships, structures or persons).

He was given a full discharge and ordered to pay £1800 in costs.

In concluding the magistrates said: "This case was about keeping a proper lookout.......  Mr Tomlinson has shown clear remorse since the incident." The magistrates had close regard for all mitigation for which they gave full credit

Mr. Nigel Blazeby, Principal Fishing Vessel Surveyor for the West of England and Wales region of the MCA said.

"When operating any vessel at sea a good lookout must be kept at all times. There is no room for complacency as situations change rapidly.

This incident also highlights that lifejackets stowed away are of no use.  As this case shows the wooden fishing vessels lifejackets could not be accessed owing to the damage received.

We would always recommend that lifejackets are stowed where they can be accessed at all times whatever the situation, but we would prefer anyone putting to sea to wear a lifejacket.

Last Updated ( Friday, 17 October 2008 )