On the 21 August 2015 Westminster Dredging Company Limited appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court in respect of 1 charge of carrying out marine licensable activity otherwise in accordance with a marine licence contrary to section 65 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
The charge related to a dredging and disposal campaign carried out by the company on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation for the Ministry of Defence between 17 and 25 September 2014 when dredged material from HM Naval Dockyard at Devonport was deposited at an authorised disposal site south of Rame Head.
At the time of the dredging and disposal campaign Westminster Dredging Company Limited had a marine licence but it did not cover 31 of the 32 disposals that were made during that period by the company’s vessel WD Mersey. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) began an investigation after a member of the public complained about the dredging and disposal activity. The company co-operated from the beginning of the investigation and throughout and provided the MMO with a complete set of co-ordinates and start/end times for each disposal which assisted the investigation.
On 11 November 2014 an official from Westminster Dredging Company Limited was interviewed and admitted the offence claiming that the unlicensed deposits were as a result of a failure of the company’s internal procedures and management systems which resulted in the master of the WD Mersey not being aware of the locational restrictions on the depositing of the dredged material.
As part of the investigation the MMO sought advice on the likely environmental impact from the 31 unlicensed deposits and concluded that any impacts from these disposals were within acceptable limits. On 30 April 2014 Westminster Dredging Company Limited had been issued by the MMO with an official written warning concerning 2 breaches of the marine licence it held. Both breaches occurred in March 2014. One breach related to a failure to notify local mariners and fishermen’s organisations of proposed work and the second was in relation to depositing material at an unauthorised time.
Having heard the facts and the mitigation put forward on behalf of the company the court agreed with the MMO that the company had been negligent in its actions and decided that the appropriate level of fine, taking into account the sentencing guidelines on environmental offences was £40,000. The company was also ordered to pay £3,534 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120.