Flying Phantom tragedy highlights need for urgent safe...

Flying Phantom tragedy highlights need for urgent safety reform

13 November 2013

Unite has called on the Scottish government to help strengthen workplace health and safety regulations following today’s High Court decision to fine Svitzer Marine Limited £1.7 million for its culpability in the fatal sinking of the Flying Phantom.  

Three crew members perished when the tug capsized in thick fog conditions after running aground while towing a cargo vessel on the River Clyde near Clydebank in December 2007.  

Svitzer previously admitted its guilt for breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) through their failure to provide its employees with proper safety procedures for the towing of marine vessels in challenging and poor conditions.  

Port operator Clydeport continues to plead not guilty to contravening safety laws and will appear before the High Court in Edinburgh next month.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said, “By the letter of the law justice was served on Svitzer Marine for their role in the preventable deaths of three crewmen but today’s judgement reinforces our view that the law is not working for the people it should serve to protect.

“Lord Turnbull said himself that he felt restricted by statute in that he could only impose a fine, noting that it does nothing to help the families of the deceased.  

“It is scandalous they have had to wait six long years for this outcome yet no Fatal Accident Inquiry has taken place, no individual within Svitzer Marine will bear any responsibility for its safety failings and any findings from this process that could improve workplace safety and prevent future fatalities cannot be legally enforced.

“We need to radically change the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) process - something the Scottish Government can do now by fast-tracking the FAI reform proposals made by Patricia Ferguson MSP - and Corporate Manslaughter legislation should be strengthened to ensure that culpability for workplace fatalities is placed on individual directors within the negligent company itself.

“This will be of little comfort to the families devastated by the Phantom tragedy but given that workplace fatalities in Scotland have increased in the last year it’s clear we need more robust laws to protect working people.”


Notes to editors: For further information please contact Peter Welsh on 07810157931.

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.