A port operator, Clydeport Operations Ltd, was fined £650,000 for health and safety failings that resulted in three deaths on a tug seven years ago.

In December 2007, the Flying Phantom was one of three tugs assisting the 70,000-tonne cargo ship, Red Jasmine, along the River Clyde. The incident occurred when, in thick fog, the Flying Phantom called the Red Jasmine to say they had stranded and the pilot instructed the tug to release the line. That was the last communication before the line became taut and the tug was pulled over and capsized – a situation known as “girting”.

Clydeport admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by not having an appropriate contingency plan in situations where large vessels were being towed in fog. 

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), who carried out the maritime element of the investigation, also found shortcomings in the application of the Port Marine Safety Code: neither the company secretary nor the operations/human resources director received adequate training to fulfil their role as the designated person with responsibility to ensure health and safety.

Following the outcome of the criminal prosecutions, Lord Advocate has decided not to hold a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths. The decision was made following consultation with the families of the victims. The Lord Advocate is satisfied that the reasons for this incident have already been properly explored and established through a public examination of the full facts and circumstances during the course of the criminal process. Preventative steps have also been identified and incorporated into an operational work instruction. This directs how to safely conduct towage on the Clyde and eliminates risks to towage so far as reasonably practicable.

Gary Aitken, head of the health and safety division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: "…the Crown will continue to hold businesses to account for their failures to discharge their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work legislation to their employees and to anyone else affected by them. The convictions mark, in a very public way, the wrongdoing perpetrated by the companies over an extended period of time. Systems have since been put in place to prevent a recurrence and the safety regime for towing operations is far more robust than what existed until 2007."

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