COVID trawler captain fined and loses licence

14.01.2021 - 15:03
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Jóhannes Jónsson - RÚV
The captain of Júlíus Geirmundsson, who was accused of breaking seafaring law when most of his crew became sick with COVID-19, pleaded guilty to the charges at the Westfjords District Court today. He was sentenced to pay a 750,000 krónur fine and loses his captain’s licence for four months. Westfjords police chief Karl Ingi Vilbergsson says the case is now closed.

22 of the 25 crew on board the freezer trawler became sick at sea in October; some quite badly. They were not tested for COVID-19 when the ship returned to shore to refuel after three weeks at sea with many already showing symptoms. It was later revealed that the first crewmember started showing symptoms after just a few days at sea. 

A police investigation began a week later and the captain and the ship’s owner, Hraðfrystihúsið Gunnvör (HG), faced harsh criticism for not returning to shore immediately. Arnar Hilmarsson, a member of the crew, told RÚV TV at the time that sick men had still been made to work on board. 

HG released a statement acknowledging that mistakes were made and the Coastguard should have been made aware of the situation on board immediately and the health authorities left to decide what to do. It was never the company’s intention to endanger lives or the health of staff, the statement said. 

The crew went on to declare a lack of confidence in the captain and demanded his resignation. A tribunal hearing that took place at the Westfjords District Court revealed that many were still suffering physical and psychological effects of the incident, and that the district epidemiologist had been clear in telling the captain to take the crew ashore for testing. 

Following the tribunal, the captain was charged with breaking seafaring law and pleaded guilty at the start of the hearing today. He was fined 750,000 krónur and loses his licence for four months. His lawyer declined RÚV's invite for interview. 

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