Owner And Skipper Of Dive Boat Prosecuted
Maritime & Coastguard Agency
Press Notice No: 119/07
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Posted 12:25 GMT
OWNER AND SKIPPER OF DIVE BOAT PROSECUTED
On 13th August 2005, the dive boat Sovereign II owned by Sovereign Diving Limited and skippered by Christopher Wilson sailed on a diving trip from Seahouses to the Farne Islands with a party of nine divers.
The trip turned to tragedy when one of the divers Michael Ward of Loughborough in Leicestershire, was struck by the propellers as he was returning to the boat. He lost his left leg and suffered such severe injury to his right leg that it has been pinned and cannot be flexed.
The quick reactions of his dive buddy and nearby charter boat called Moby, ensured that Mr Ward was taken back to port quickly where a doctor and nurses who were passing by gave help. A trauma surgeon, who was diving nearby, also sped back to Seahouses where he took charge of the medical team and accompanied Mr Ward to Newcastle General Hospital.
Investigations by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) revealed that the skipper Christopher Wilson did not hold the necessary certificate of competence to be in charge of the boat. Mr Wilson was employed by Sovereign Divers Ltd as crew on their passenger boat Sovereign IV. However when the skipper of Sovereign II left in early July, Wilson was made skipper. He had been sailing as skipper without a certificate of competence for five or six weeks before the incident date.
In Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 16th April 2007, Mr Toby Douglas, a director of Sovereign Diving Ltd., and Christopher Wilson, the skipper of Sovereign II, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Code of Practice for Small Commercial Vessels, also known as the yellow code.
Sovereign Diving was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,500 towards costs, and Christopher Wilson was fined £500 and was ordered to pay £500 towards costs.
Captain Allan Marsh, Enforcement Officer stated This was a very tragic incident. Owners and Skippers of dive vessels are reminded that they are responsible for ensuring full compliance with the Code of Practice and that their vessels are operated in a safe manner.
When involved in diving operations, the MCA recommends that propeller guards are fitted.
In this case, the Sovereign II was a single handed operation. The owner/managing agent should ensure that there are sufficient additional crew on board having regard to the type and duration of voyage being undertaken.
In passing sentence on Tuesday 24th April 2007, the His Honour judge John Evans said
This case demonstrates all too unhappily two things. Firstly, that underwater diving, whether it be commercial or pleasure based, is a potentially hazardous activity. Secondly, that it demonstrates that there is a need to carefully regulate the way that those who are involved with it either as a sport or a business go about it, that includes not just the divers themselves, but equally their support crew.
The dangers in this case graphically demonstrate the dangers of this activity. What happens off the Blue Cap Rocks on the 13th August 2005, and the outcome for Mr Ward which left him with severe injuries should serve as a constant reminder in the future of these principles.