UK Skipper Fined for Falling Asleep and Hitting an Anchored Boat


Published Jul 9, 2024 8:21 PM by The Maritime Executive


The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency has fined a fishing boat skipper about $13,000 for striking an anchored boat off the coast of Sussex. The skipper fell asleep on watch, according to the MCA. 

On January 15, 2022, fishing captain Maurice Reid was at the helm aboard the fishing vessel Margaret Anne, a UK-registered scallop dredger. The vessel was transiting past Shoreham, off the southern coast of Sussex, when it approached the anchored fishing vessel Blackbird.

The crew of the Blackbird detected the Margaret Anne's approach and understood the risk of a potential casualty. They tried to get the attention of the skipper, but got no response. In order to lessen the impact, they pulled on the anchor cable to "maneuver" as best they could as Margaret Anne closed in. 

The force of the impact caused minor injuries to two crewmembers aboard Blackbird. Margaret Anne continued on her voyage; the captain had been asleep, and the crew only realized that something was amiss when they looked out to see what was going on. 

Reid, 44, pleaded guilty to failing to do what was required of a master to prevent serious damage to another ship or person (under UK shipping law). He also pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a proper lookout. 

Reid was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, a fine of $13,000, and eight months imprisonment (suspended for 12 months). 

"The UK fishing industry has the highest proportion of deaths and serious injury per capita of any industry within the UK. Many events involving casualties on fishing vessels are a result of complacency, neglect and flagrant disregard for the law. This is unacceptable and those fishers and owners who put lives at risk will be prosecuted," said MCA investigator Martin Hayward in a statement. "[This incident] could have had disastrous consequences were it not for the quick thinking of those on the vessel in danger."

Margaret Anne (ex name Georg Lou N) has had several previous casualties and encounters with the authorities. As Georg Lou N, she reportedly spilled diesel during a fuel transfer in Scarborough Harbor in 2018; was fined for illegal fishing earlier the same year; and went aground in Stranraer Harbor in 2014. She has been sold twice since these previous incidents occurred; the latest owner is not registered in her Equasis record.