A SCOTS fishing company once fined over serious boat safety breaches is at the centre of a new probe after a foreign worker died on board one of their scallop trawlers.

The 36-year--old man, originally from Indonesia was airlifted by a coastguard helicopter to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after becoming injured during maintenance of fishing gear on the Olivia Jean at around 9.30pm on June 28.

But he died 12 days later after being transferred to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

Police Scotland has been working alongside the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the circumstances of what was described as an “unexpected death” while the 39-year-old vessel was 55 miles east of Aberdeen.

Police Scotland said a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. Police Scotland confirmed that the 111ft long Olivia Jean, was owned by Annan-based TN Enterprises, whose sole director is fishing entrepreneur Tom Nicholson.


Mr Nicholson, 56 and 38-year-old son Christopher are the two directors of the TN Enterprises subsidiary TN Trawlers which four years ago was at the centre of a case described as one of the worst safety breaches in years.

The firm and the directors had been accused of putting financial gain ahead of the lives of their crews after being ordered to pay almost £150,000 in costs for a series of serious safety breaches and came after a lengthy investigation by the MCA.

The offences related to three vessels owned by the company, including the Olivia Jean, Philomena and Georgelou N and covered a period between November 2009 and June 2011.

READ MORE: Fishing vessel firm fined for safety breaches

Southampton Crown Court was told that investigators from the MCA found that unauthorised modifications had been made to the Olivia Jean.

These included the addition of a crane on a raised platform, holes in the forward watertight bulkhead to take larger conveyor belts and the addition of a generator set which was positioned over an access hatchway in the forecastle space.

The scallop dredger was only authorised to use 14 dredges but records indicated 18 were in use. Examinations of the same records also showed that the Olivia Jean was carrying more deck cargo than permitted in its stability rules.

The vessel also operated under an exemption allowing the removal of the rescue boat if a crew of six or less was on board. But eight crewmen were on board the vessel.

After the hearing, Captain Jeremy Smart, the MCA’s head of enforcement, condemned the company’s safety record.

He said: “TN Trawlers and its directors failed to heed previous warnings and advice from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The standard of care was far below what is expected, and the failings could have led to loss of life or serious injury.

“This blatant disregard for safety standards is one of the worst that the MCA has come across in past years and we are pleased that this view has been supported by the sentence of the court.”

Ten years ago, the Olivia Jean was at the centre of another probe when a fisherman was injured by a falling bridle chain. The fisherman received chest injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

The MAIB said that the trawl wire was not adequately checked by the crew and it probably failed because it was worn and brittle adding it was the second time that a crewman on board had been seriously injured as a result of a parting wire.

An examination of Olivia Jean found poorly maintained fishing equipment and no evidence of systematic planned maintenance.

“The vessel failed stability criteria for a number of structural reasons and was being operated in a manner that further reduced stability margins,” the synopsis adds.

“Nine crewmen were on board, despite the vessel being limited to a maximum of six. The crewmen were working long hours, with few breaks. Documentation, records and evidence of risk assessment were missing.

“From the state of the vessel, and the way in which it was being operated, it could be construed that the owner was showing a total disregard for the safety and welfare of his employees and share-fishermen on board.”

HeraldScotland: The MAIB used photographs to highlight "many safety critical deficiencies" in their 2009 report on the Olivia Jean

The MAIB said that MCA procedures on fishing vessel safety “require significant policy changes to improve fishing vessel occupational standards and to ensure the safety of fishermen” in the wake of the accident.

It said that after the accident, the MCA surveyed the vessel but permitted her to sail in a condition that exceeded the limitations in her stability book.

As a consequence, MAIB issued a safety bulletin which recommended the owner to immediately cease fishing operations on Olivia Jean until the vessel’s stability could be verified and approved by the MCA.

In 2008, TN Trawlers boss Tom Nicholson was ordered to pay almost £500,000 for his company’s part in a quota racket.

READ MORE: Trawler tycoon who traded in black fish is ordered to pay £500,000

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court imposed the seizure under the Proceeds of Crime Act after Nicholson admitted a total of 26 breaches by his company of EEC regulations which control catches of specified species of fish.

He was also fined GBP27,000 by Judge David Wood after being busted in an 18-month probe into the trade in “black fish”.

In a sophisticated scam, trawler skippers landed hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of valuable species such as plaice and sole, which are restricted by European Union quotas, and failed to declare the clandestine landings, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

The so-called “black fish” catches were then sold illegally to a network of fish merchants who disguised them in their books as non- quota species such as turbot, brill and lemon sole.

TN Trawlers was approached for comment.