Captain Gough Everett Wellon, master of a 76,000 tonnes Newfoundland shuttle oil tanker, Kometik, has been found guilty of violating Canadian labour laws in an incident that led to the death of a deckhand and serious injury of a welder in a fire on 8th April 2006. It’s a reminder that in certain jurisdictions a master can be found legally liable under local labor codes if crew don’t follow safety procedures and are killed or injured.
Kometik, owned by Canship-Ugland, services the Hibernia offshore oil platform. While undergoing routine maintenance in Conception Bay a deckhand and a contract welder were welding a steel bracket a cargo hold when a flash fire occurred, killing the deckhand and severely burning the welder. Captain Wellon was subsequently charged with 18 counts under the Canadian Labor Code, pleased guilty to two and the remaining charges were dropped.
Fines of CA$13,750 were imposed on Captain Wellon on each of two charges: failing to ensure that electrical equipment had been disconnected and failure to ensure that the welding did not present a danger to others on board.
In April the ship’s former Chief Mate, Raymond Riggs, was fined CA$20,000 on similar charges.
It is understood that a marine chemist boarded the vessel and tank the No. 4 cargo tank but not the No. 5 tank where the incident occurred. The tank was tested by a crew members before entry but questions remain about the equipment and the seafarer’s ability to use it. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board has not yet issued its investigation report on th incident.