Nautilus alarmed by ISM Code caseNews // April 30, 2009
NAUTILUS UK has expressed alarm about a court case in which a member was fined £1,800 after breaching his vessel's safety management system by allowing an 'over the limit' crew member onboard.
Captain Alexander Phimister, master of the support vessel VOS Viper, was sentenced at Lerwick Sheriff Court last month after pleading guilty to breaching safety regulations in connection with the death of a crew member Gordon Michael Buchan in November 2007.
Mr Buchan died following a fall down steps onboard the ship after returning from a run ashore. Capt Phimister was accused of breaching the safety management system by allowing Mr Buchan to board the vessel when his blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit under merchant shipping rules.
Defending, advocate Louis Moll told the court that Capt Phimister clearly had breached the regulations 'with the best of intentions' because he was 'between a rock and a hard place' when Mr Buchan returned to the ship.
The master had to make a decision 'either to leave him on the pier or let him on to the ship to recover, clearly in breach of the regulations', the advocate said.
Capt Phimister decided to let Mr Buchan onboard because the ship was docked and there was no prospect that she would leave within the following 24 hours. There were also duty crew members onboard who could move the vessel to another berthing place should that have been required by the harbour authorities.
Nautilus assistant general secretary Mark Dickinson said the Union provided legal support for Capt Phimister, and regards the case as 'extremely disturbing' because of the implications it raises.
"We believe this case is another example of the criminalisation of the maritime profession, and raises fundamental questions about the responsibilities of masters and the workings of the ISM Code."
"The core question remains: what was Capt Phimister meant to do in such circumstances, and what would have happened had he refused to allow Mr Buchan onboard the ship?"