plymouth fishermen docks safety

Concerns raised by Plymouth fishermen over safety at Trinity Pier, in Plymouth Docks has been echoed by leading maritime lawyer, Andrew Oliver

Leading maritime Lawyer Andrew Oliver echoes concerns of Plymouth fishermen over safety of docks and operations

A planned maintenance of the lock gates at Sutton Harbour, Plymouth has led to fishermen’s concerns about health and safety when using a temporary berthing facility. 

Plymouth’s fishing docks at Sutton Harbour are protected by lock gates. As part of planned maintenance, on 04 September last, the Environment Agency (EA) commenced work on the lock gates that provide vital flood defences for the Barbican area of the city earlier this month. 

plymouth fishermen docks safety

The floating pontoon at Trinity Pier

Group (SHG) who operate the fishing harbour at Sutton Harbour are partners of the EA in the project and are responsible for providing alternative landing facilities at Trintiy Pier during the works.

But fishermen say that despite multiple meetings, and email requests over the past months vital safety documentation they require has not been provided. Despite this, SHG claim the facilities at Trinity Pier are now operational.

Maritime Lawyer Andrew Oliver of Andrew Jacksons, Hull had offered to attend a meeting with the EA, SHG, Plymouth City Council and representatives of the fishing industry to help explain the legal requirements of port operators. Late yesterday, Thursday 29 September, SHG declined the meeting and has stated it will not attend further multi-party meetings.

Lyme Bay Fisherman’s CIC is hosting a virtual evening with Andrew Oliver, of Andrew Jackson Solicitors for their members this Wednesday

Andrew Oliver, of Andrew Jackson Solicitors, Hull

Andrew Oliver said:

“Quite rightly fishermen and their insurers require sight of risk assessments and other safety documentation. SHG failure to make disclosure puts fishermen in an invidious position as they will potentially be unable to ensure compliance with statutory requirements risking prosecution, civil liability, and possible withdrawal of insurance coverage. In the absence of the sight of most basic documentation, maybe the HSE and MCA should intervene and ensure compliance.”

It is understood that SHG have chained two pontoons for vessels to land onto and are providing a spider crane staffed by SHG to support landings. Fishermen have been told by SHG that operations require vessels to self-land onto the pontoons but have not been provided with stability information prescribing the weight and distribution for these operations to ensure it is done within safe parameters.

Fishermen have been told that they will be required to assist SHG staff with lifting operations by securing their catches with strops connected to the crane. But beyond a chart of hand signals for lifting, fisherman have not been given sight of the SHG lifting plan and it is not clear if training should be given for fishing crew to take part in these operations.

Fishermen have raised concerns with SHG about broader safety provisions for the TP; there is no permanent lighting on the docks apart from at the entrance, SHG have suggested they have temporary lighting but have not explained how this will be used and if it provides adequate lighting for an open dock with multiple trip hazards.

Fishermen have also questioned the lack of provision for man overboard (MOB) recovery. Fishing Daily understands currently there is only one ladder that reaches from the quayside to the pontoon. Trinity Pier is 150m long. They were told that SHG was considering installing another ladder.

plymouth fishermen docks safety

Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Sutton and Plymouth

Commenting on the current situation, Luke Pollard MP for Sutton and Devonport said:

“From start to finish, this essential flood protection scheme has been beset with poor planning and unrealistic timetables.

“Upgrading the lock gates at Sutton Harbour is absolutely essential work, but it does have a significant impact on Plymouth’s fishing industry. I am very concerned that the Environment Agency has lost control of this project with zero mitigations for the fishing industry currently in place.

“This is a perfect example of how not to run a complex infrastructure project, with stakeholder concerns ignored at every turn.

“There is now a very significant risk that the Environment Agency’s mishandling of the project will result in fishing boats choosing to land their catches in other ports, putting at risk the viability of Plymouth’s whole fishing industry.

“I have been in regular correspondence with Ministers raising concerns about the Environment Agency’s botched handling of this project. It’s now time for them to act on the very serious health and safety concerns that have been raised and get this essential project back on track.”

The Fishing Daily contacted both the Environment Agency and the Sutton Harbour Group for their right to reply. Both responded, saying that they could not offer comment until the middle of next week.

The Fishing Daily has informed both the EA and SHG that we are awaiting their response and will be carrying out a follow-up on this story.

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