The families of crewmen who died in the Flying Phantom tugboat tragedy have launched compensation actions against Clydeport which is responsible for safety on the River Clyde and the tug operator Denmark-based Svitzer Marine.
Frank Maguire, Senior Partner with Thompsons Solicitors said the families were taking the action out of a sense of total frustration because there was no progress with an official inquiry into the tragedy, and Clydeport which is responsible for safety on the River Clyde had refused to implement key recommendations from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the sinking.
The Flying Phantom went down in heavy fog in December 2007 while towing the Red Jasmine tanker up the river, killing three of the crew. One man escaped.
Linda Cameron, whose husband Bob was the engineer on the Flying Phantom and Eileen Blackley whose husband Eric was the vessel’s crewman said they were ‘bitterly angry and totally dismayed’ that nothing has been done to implement the findings of a major inquiry into the sinking in December 2007.
The report by the Marine Accident Investigation heavily criticised Svitzer for not ensuring the crew had received special training in navigating in poor visibility and Clydeport for not fitting a £30,000 fog detection system, after a similar accident, also involving the Flying Phantom, in 2000.
Linda Cameron said: “We are bitterly angry that nothing has been done by Clydeport to prevent other families suffering the agonies we have been through since our husbands died.
“It seems unbelievable that it is now18 months since the accident and we are still no further forward.
‘We are taking legal action now, not for the money but to draw attention to the fact that nothing has happened to prevent the same terrible type of accident happening again.
“We are all finding it desperately hard to come to terms with our loss, and knowing that it could happen again to someone else makes it ten times worse.”
Eileen Blackley said: “The men and women who work on the Clyde are a very close knit community.
“We are absolutely dismayed that the lives of our husbands friends and workmates are still being put at risk because Clydeport won’t spend £30,000 on a fog detection system, even though they are a multi-million pound company.”
John Quigley Scottish Regional Secretary of Unite the Union said: “The government is playing Russian roulette with the lives of the seamen and women who work on the Clyde.
“It’s totally unacceptable for them to let Clydeport blatantly ignore the findings of the Marine Accident Investigation Board, when those recommendations are intended to prevent a similar tragedy.
“We have been fighting with Thompsons to get government safety agencies to serve enforcement orders on Clydeport to make them take steps like fitting a fog warning system.
“But we now have a letter from the Department of Transport which confirms that they have no powers to force harbour authorities like Clydeport to do anything about enhancing safety, and neither does the Health and Safety Executive or the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
“It is a total farce.”
Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire Senior Partner in Thompsons Solicitors who represents the families said: “The letter from the Department of Transport confirms that Clydeport is a law unto itself when it comes to enforcement.
“That is a bizarre situation and one that cannot be allowed to continue given that the marine environment they control is such a potentially dangerous environment for everyone who works there.
“Only two weeks ago we had another tug sinking this time in Aberdeen harbour, fortunately without loss of life.
“We will pursue this matter along with Unite and campaign to make Clydeport totally accountable as is every other similar organisation in the country.
“In the meantime we have advised the familes to launch their civil claims now to get action and stop Clydeport blatantly refusing to implement the MAIB recommendations.”
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Flying Phantom widows launch lawsuit over fatal capsize - The Daily Record 3rd July 2009