Sleeping skipper caused vessel collision in Sussex - 'Could have had disastrous consequences'

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The skipper of a fishing trawler has been ordered to pay £10,000 after falling asleep during his watch, causing the vessel to collide with another in Sussex, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said.

On January 15, 2022, Maurice Reid, aged 44, of Fraserburgh, was in charge of the fishing vessel Margaret Anne’s journey when he ‘started to fall asleep’, the government agency said.

A spokesperson added: “Moments later the vessel collided with anchored fishing vessel Blackbird in the Shoreham area, off the south coast of Sussex, causing minor injuries to the two men onboard.

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“The crew on the Blackbird had been shouting and waving at the Margaret Anne in an attempt to stop the pending collision, before pulling on the anchor to ensure minor impact.

Lewes Crown CourtLewes Crown Court
Lewes Crown Court

“Unaffected by the hit, the Margaret Anne continued its journey.

"It wasn’t until crew members of the Margaret Anne looked out the window it had dawned on them what had happened to the smaller vessel, only then realising their skipper was asleep.”

At Lewes Crown Court, Reid pleaded guilty to ‘failing to do what was required’ as master to prevent his ship from causing serious damage to another ship or serious injury to another person, under Section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

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The spokesperson added: “Reid also pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a proper look out, under the Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996.

“Reid was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

“He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £10,000 in costs.”

Following the sentencing, MCA investigator Martin Hayward said the incident ‘could have had disastrous consequences’ were it not for the ‘quick thinking of those on the vessel in danger’.

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He added: “This was a dangerous situation caused by the master of the fishing vessel failing to adhere to the collision avoidance rules. The outcome could have been much worse.

“The UK fishing industry has the highest proportion of deaths and serious injury per capita of any industry within the UK. Many events involving casualties on fishing vessels are a result of complacency, neglect and flagrant disregard for the law. This is unacceptable and those fishers and owners who put lives at risk will be prosecuted.

“The MCA continues to work with the fishing industry to improve safety, and those not willing to engage, improve levels of compliance and operate safely will face the full weight of the law.”