Tug boat owner sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to serious offences under the Merchant Shipping Act

A tug boat owner was sentenced to eight months in prison on Friday after a crewman died trying to reattach a tow line in a violent storm.

Martin Richley, owner and skipper of Endurance, pleaded guilty to serious offences under the Merchant Shipping Act at Southampton Crown Court before being given his sentence on Friday.

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The decision comes two years after the incident which saw crewman Steven Trice fall overboard, and his body recovered several weeks later.

On February 3rd 2013, Endurance began towing a 60ft motor cruiser Sirius M from the River Medway to Brighton.

As the tug boat left the Medway, Mr Richley was warned by Medway Vessel Traffic Monitoring Station that strong winds up to gale force 8 had been forecast.

Despite the warning, Mr Richley decided to continue with the journey, even through he was not qualified to carry out the passage as Endurance was only licenced for use in ‘favourable’ weather conditions.

Shortly before midnight on February 4th, the tow line between the tug and Sirius M snapped in gale force winds.

Mr Trice attempted to reattach the vessels but was lost overboard.

Lifeboats from Newhaven and Eastbourne battled high seas and violent winds to find Mr Trice, but their search was unsuccessful.

His body was eventually recovered several weeks later.

Judge Ralls Q.C said at the sentencing: “This was a catalogue of disasters, Mr Richley was prepared to take a chance… it was a disaster waiting to happen after a series of bad decisions.”