Press Notice No: 385/00
Friday, September 29, 2000
OIL TANKER OFFICERS’ CERTIFICATES SUSPENDED AFTER INQUIRY
Certificates of Competency withdrawn for 14 months and eight months for Master and Chief Engineer of ‘Matco Clyde’ respectively.
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) had initiated an Inquiry which began on 18th September at Eastleigh Magistrates Court under Section 61 of the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act into the Conduct and Fitness of Captain Clive Mottram, and Chief Engineer John Blamires, to hold their Certificates of Competency as Master and Chief Engineer following an incident off Macduff in Scotland on 23rd March 2000.
The Inquiry was originally initiated after the MCA received reports that these two officers together with the 3rd Officer and the Bosun had left their ship, the oil tanker ‘MATCO CLYDE’, at anchor 13 miles off the Scottish coast. They were reported to have gone ashore in a RIB (a rigid inflatable boat) and were alleged to have spent most of the afternoon in a public house.
They had then been observed departing Macduff whilst steering erratically, colliding with the breakwater and had then been rescued by RAF helicopter from their disabled RIB 7 miles out from the shore in very rough weather after it ran out of fuel.
Numerous reports of their intoxicated state and the facts of the rescue caused the MCA to suspend their Certificates of Competency pending this Inquiry.
The ‘Matco Clyde’, operated by Exxon-Mobil, has a “dry ship” policy with no alcohol allowed on board and the two officers responsible for administering random drug and alcohol tests to the crew are the Captain and Chief Engineer.
Lionel Persey QC who was appointed by the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions led the Inquiry. Mr Persey was assisted by two assessors, Captain Beetham and Mr Ballantyne.
The findings of the Inquiry were that Captain Mottram bore the principle responsibility and his suspension was confirmed and continued until 31st May 2001. Mr Blamires suspension was confirmed and continued until 30th November 2000.
Both officers will be considered for the issue of lesser Certificates during the period of suspension.
Mr Persey remarked :
“…..that he found that the events of the day were an appalling state of affairs… the officers had consumed five pints during the afternoon and that the judgement of the officers was impaired by alcohol…they exposed themselves and the other occupants of the RIB and rescuers to danger and possible loss of life.
Mr Persey added
“…. that all mariners should never carry out their duties under the influence of alcohol.”
Investigation, legal and Inquiry costs were approximately £135,000 and the MCA have asked the Court to make an award.
The Inquiry was a major logistical exercise involving many witnesses from Scotland and elsewhere and the RAF Helicopter Pilot involved in the rescue travelled from the Falkland Islands to give evidence.
The Inquiry was also advised that the cost to the public purse for the rescue was £14,000, although these costs are not being sought by the MCA.
Mr Maurice Storey, Chief Executive of the MCA said
“ I was saddened that the MCA had to bring this action against two such senior officers but the facts of this case left the MCA with no option but to suspend the Certificates of the Captain and Chief Engineer and hold an Inquiry.
“ Captains and Chief Engineers especially on high risk ships such as large oil tankers have a duty to lead by example and are expected to display the highest standards of professionalism.
Mr Storey added:
“ No mariner should be afloat when alcohol adversely affects their ability to function or impairs their judgement. Currently the Government is consulting with regard to alcohol limits at sea. Some owners and operators already operate a dry ship regime.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The facts leading to the Inquiry were as follows:
1. The RIB departed from the ‘Matco Clyde’ at 1100 on the 23rd March 2000. The weather was fine at the time of departure but gales had been forecast for the afternoon. A gale forecast had been received on the ‘Matco Clyde’ before the men set off.
2. The men spent some time shopping and some time in a local pub in Macduff.
3. At approximately 18.00 hours the RIB set off from Macduff Harbour and was seen to be manoeuvred at speed and collided twice with the breakwater on exit.
4. The RIB continued out to sea at full speed witnessed by the Captain and other crew of the Scottish Fisheries protection Vessel ‘Morven’. The RIB was observed by them to be damaged by the collision and one of the sponsons was seen deflating.
5. The weather at the time was totally unsuitable for a RIB to undertake such a voyage and the Captain of the ‘Morven’ was so concerned for the safety of the RIB that he called Coastguard and then set off in the ‘Morven’ in pursuit.
6. Coastguard initiated a full scale Search and Rescue operation involving 2 RNLI lifeboats, a Coastguard shore rescue team, the ‘Morven’, a fishing vessel in the vicinity, and an RAF helicopter was scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth.
7. The RIB engine stopped 7 miles out from the shore, probably when it ran out of fuel. The spare fuel tanks had been lost over the side. The RIB carried no flares or lights and the radios were waterlogged and did not work. There was a sea anchor on the RIB but it was not deployed. The only remaining dry means of communication was the Chief Engineers personal mobile phone which he used to call the ‘Matco Clyde’.
8. The RIB was disabled and drifting in very rough seas and force 6-7 winds in failing light for about 30 to 40 minutes.
9. The RAF helicopter located the RIB at 19.19 hours when the helicopter crew using night vision goggles spotted the small lights on the lifejackets of the RIB occupants.
10. All survivors were recovered on board the helicopter by 19.37 hours. A video was shot by the helicopter crew showing the rescue.
11. The survivors were landed at RAF Lossiemouth at about 19.48 hours and were interviewed by civilian police at RAF Lossiemouth and taken to a hotel at approximately midnight.
12. ‘Matco Clyde' is a large North Sea shuttle oil tanker registered in the United Kingdom and operated by International Marine Transportation of Leatherhead Surrey UK.
13. The RIB is small rigid inflatable boat of the Searider type. It is single engine aluminium hull with inflatable sponsons of the type commonly used by larger vessels for fast rescue craft.
Posted by: Mark Clark
For further details contact:
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency Duty Press Officer
Office hours: 023 8032 9401