Chichester firm fined over asbestos safety breach

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A marine firm has been fined more than £130,000 for failing to properly deal with asbestos within one of its vessels.

Tarmac Marine Ltd, based in Chichester, did not act when asbestos was identified in the pipework of its 96-metre dredger and failed to tell the 12 crew operating it, according to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) which brought the prosecution.

Tarmac Marine Ltd pleaded guilty to the offences and was fined a total of £130,544.57 at Southampton Magistrates Court on Friday, including a victim surcharge of £120 and £10,424.57 in costs.

In January 2014, a survey identified the presence of asbestos in pipework in the dredger The City of Westminster from its build in 2008 and recommended that it was dealt with immediately.

However, according to the MCA, Tarmac Marine failed to act on this report and the crew were not informed of the presence of the asbestos on the vessel.

The issue came to light in January 2016, when the vessel was required to produce an asbestos free certificate to the Port of Tyne in order for it to berth.

This certificate was requested by the ship’s master from the Tarmac Marine management based in Chichester, the MCA said.

In response the crew were asked by managers to paint over the affected parts of the vessel with standard paint, in order to cover over the asbestos, the MCA said.

The crew, having become suspicious, refused the request and Tarmac Marine management were forced to disclose to the crew that the pipework did in fact contain asbestos.

A crew member subsequently informed the seaman’s union Nautilus and the MCA were alerted under their whistle blowing policy.

Captain Jeremy Smart, head of the MCA’s enforcement unit, said: “Despite documented knowledge of the presence of asbestos in the vessel’s pipework, the crew were never warned of this danger and were allowed to continue working in those areas none the wiser.

“Tarmac Marine Ltd have shown scant regard for their employees and have failed in their responsibilities to keep their workforce as safe as it should be.

“The risks from asbestos exposure are well known and that is why the health and safety regulations require specific measures to be taken. We hope that this successful prosecution sends a strong message to shipping and maritime companies, no matter what their size, that the risks from asbestos will be taken seriously and action will be taken so more lives aren’t put in danger in the future.”

Tarmac Marine Ltd pleaded guilty to four offences contrary to the Merchant Shipping Act Health & Safety and Asbestos regulations, the MCA added.

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