Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-167)
MONDAY 2 APRIL 2001
SIR JOHN BOURN, KCB, MR JOE CAVANAGH, MR BRIAN GLICKSMAN AND MR MAURICE STOREY
160. Of the accidents here, how many of these were involving alcohol?
(Mr Storey) I cannot tell you the exact number off the top of my head without reading through it. A number involved alcohol and fatigue, a mixture of alcohol and fatigue.
161. Presumably in fishing boats a number of the accidents there are the responsibility of human error where alcohol has played a part, does that seem a fair assumption?
(Mr Storey) I cannot really say whether alcohol has played a part because sometimes you do not recover them alive. There has been an investigation on drugs particularly with one of the universities in your area in Scotland to look at drug related issues in the fishing industry, and a report was published just recently on that one. We are in dialogue likewise on alcohol and the Deputy Prime Minister recently announced that we will be putting into place a system of alcohol protection for ships that go around the waters in the United Kingdom, including merchant ships, pleasure vessels, fishing boats, everything. That will be coming into force.
162. I was not aware of that, that is very helpful. Could I pick up, finally, the point in paragraph 4.11 about taking action against owners. I am not clear whether or not taking action against owners abroad is going to be part of this review that is being undertaken or whether or not that is something additional that you might wish to pursue?
(Mr Storey) We would always like to go against the owner where the owner is the person at fault. For example, if the crew is so small on a foreign flag ship and they are unable to sustain the itinerary of the ship we would like to go after the owner, while giving the crew the support, rather than just get the guy who put the ship on the beach. The problem is that you cannot always locate these owners. For example, in Germany there are many ships that are one ship companies and they are owned on a tax basis by doctors and dentists, etc and you cannot get to the bottom of who is the true owner of the vessel, they are run by a frontline organisation. Recently we had a vessel called the LAGIK which was on the east coast of the United Kingdom, was turning in the river, got stuck and broke its back in four places, the master was very quick to disappear with its papers back to where he came from and the owners were in Germany. We had to salvage that ship, remove it and deal with it without being able to get back directly at the owners, although we look as if we can get at them through their P&I Club. It is difficult to get foreign owners. It is a different situation if they are resident in the United Kingdom.
163. I wonder if I can follow up on that point. There are two separate circumstances here. In the first case would it not be appropriate to have a rule or set of regulations that meant that only ships where the ownership could be established and traced back were allowed into British waters? In circumstances where you might wish to prosecute an owner, but you do not know who it is or they are not present, you could just go ahead with all of that anyway, establish a fine and seize the ship in part payment for the fine. I would have thought that would concentrate the minds of those who are in it for the money. You might not get the individual in jail but you would seize the asset. That would be a deterrent, would it not?
(Mr Storey) It sounds a good idea but if you take the incident of the LAGIK, the owner chose to abandon the ship across the river and we had to get rid of it.
164. That was the first point I made about introducing regulations which demands the ultimate ownership of any vessel entering British waters ought to be in the papers.
(Mr Storey) It could be looked at but I think the International Law of the Sea would probably prohibit that. We have to give free trade to any vessel that comes into the UK, I believe, under the International Law of the Sea.
165. So there is no rule or stipulation. We are not without influence in these councils around the world, are we?
(Mr Storey) It would be an issue that would have to be raised at the International Maritime Organization and if such a situation was raised at that point it would be a case of whether it could be voted through if there were enough people to support such an issue.
166. Do you believe that it should be raised?
(Mr Storey) I believe it is an issue that could be looked at. I do not have any faith to think that it would be possible to achieve it through that organisation.
167. Thank you very much. It just remains for me to thank you for coming and giving interesting evidence, as last time.
(Mr Storey) Thank you, Chairman. If we may leave with you copies of our new business plan and the Port State Control document.
Chairman: That would be helpful. Would the Committee want the evidence of this session to be put in the Library and on the internet? Yes. Thank you.