A FISHING vessel company and its two directors have been fined almost £150,000 after admitting safety breaches that put lives at risk.

TN Trawlers's "blatant disregard for safety standards" was among the worst seen by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in recent years and the firm continued to operate vessels with defects despite previous warnings.

The Annan-based firm, run by Thomas Iain Nicholson and his son Christopher John Nicholson, was ordered to pay £147,465 in fines and costs for the failures discovered between November 2009 and June 2011.

They included two vessels breaching mandatory regulations designed to allow safe passage through the Dover Strait – one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

On one vessel there was not enough safety equipment for every crew member and on another crew had to crawl or climb over dredges laid out on the foredeck to access their accommodation.

The failures also included unauthorised modifications to one vessel which had been poorly maintained, problems with safety training and out-of-date records.

The company and its directors admitted nine charges of breaching health and safety regulations.

Captain Jeremy Smart, head of enforcement for the MCA, said: "We will not tolerate this behaviour where financial gain seems to be more important than the value of human life."

Judge Ralls, QC, said: "Fishing vessels operate in a harsh and uncompromising environment. Great care needs to be taken in that vessels are in a safe condition at all times.

"It is the owner's responsibility to those they employ."