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‘Leaked’ reports put lifeboat crew walkout back in the spotlight

‘Leaked’ reports put lifeboat crew walkout back in the spotlight

Monday 23 May 2022

‘Leaked’ reports put lifeboat crew walkout back in the spotlight

Monday 23 May 2022

Tensions that led the former St. Helier RNLI crew to walk out and set up their own lifeboat charity have boiled over once again, after two reports leaked into the public domain.

On Friday, an independent investigation commissioned by Ports of Jersey into how Jersey Lifeboat Association vessel Sir Max Aitken III was damaged after hitting rocks off Noirmont Point last November was released following a request made under the Freedom of Information Law.

It concluded that the collision had occurred because the coxswain was distracted while looking at an electronic chart plotter that was behind him.

The report reproduced the full statement of the delegated Harbourmaster, who claimed that, after the incident, the coxswain had admitted to having "two glasses of wine with his dinner" before declining a breathalyser test. While it made no finding in this respect, the report recommended that Ports of Jersey consider tightening their Drug and Alcohol powers.

The JLA, whose operations have been frozen since then, hit back on Saturday, claiming that things are "being twisted" and that the report released under the Freedom of Information Law was an "incomplete draft".


Click to enlarge: The delegated Harbourmaster's statement (left) and the JLA coxswain's statement (right), which were both reproduced in full in the independent incident report.

Adding that "the truth will always prevail", the lifeboat charity expressed its wish for a report by Sir David Calvert-Smith QC – understood to be the closely guarded review commissioned by Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré to decide if a public inquiry into the RNLI row that led to the JLA's creation is required – to be released "soon".

A day after the collision report was released, an alleged copy of the QC's report was shared on Facebook by the Jersey Action Group, a Facebook page run by St. Helier Central Deputy candidate John Baker.

As well as concluding that it was likely Ministers in charge at the time could have done more to keep the public informed of the fall-out between the RNLI and future JLA crew that left the island without St. Helier lifeboat cover for several weeks, the QC review quoted by the Jersey Action Group suggested that Ports of Jersey, which currently falls outside of Freedom of Information Law rules, should have greater accountability. 

Express has approached the Ports of Jersey for comment. 

The alleged report – whose author claimed that he had had been given limited engagement with Ministers, Ports of Jersey and the RNLI during the course of his review – also quotes unnamed "correspondents" who point out that the saga has left the island with an "expensive over-provision of lifeboat cover".

It is understood that the final version of the QC's report was sent to the Chief Minister as well as those who had contributed to it. It is also understood that any contributors were unable to see, or comment on, preliminary drafts, which may explain why Ports of Jersey and ministers, past and present, were unwilling to engage.

Hours later, the JLA published an open letter to 'Chair of the Jersey Harbour Authority John Mills', Ports of Jersey and Minister for Economic Development Senator Lyndon Farnham, who has had political responsibility for ports since the time of the fall-out.

The team called for urgent clarification as to why their vessels remained frozen and asked that they are unfrozen immediately.

Quoting from a letter of complaint about Ports of Jersey's freezing order sent to the Council of Ministers in March 2022 which they claimed was still yet to receive a response, the JLA said: "We are available to serve the public and would welcome your confirmation that you will utilise our professional services as required going forward."


JLA coxswain 'distracted by chart plotter before hitting rocks'

Independent investigation after JLA lifeboat hits rocks

Jersey Lifeboat Association operations "frozen" pending investigation

WATCH: JLA lifeboat damage to be assessed next week

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