Renowned Hill Dickinson lawyer presents at port conference on management of legal risks

PITTORDIS MariaThe 8th Annual UK Ports Conference took place at Hill Dickinson LLP’s office at Broadgate Tower, London on 24th – 25th May. This extended two day event discussed, amongst other things, the changing policy and regulations within the sector and the legal issues that ports face in today’s uncertain world.

Maria Pittordis, Head of Marine, Trade and Energy at Hill Dickinson LLP, presented on the topic of ‘Identifying and managing the legal risks for port operations’. This broad narrative incorporated vital issues for the sector including the importance of stringent health and safety procedures, from a criminal and civil perspective, vicarious liability, corporate manslaughter and liabilities arising from acts of terrorism by third parties.  

Drawing on a number of cases, Maria outlined the responsibilities that companies have regarding the welfare of their employees and the potentially severe consequences if these regulations are not adhered to. Maria also discussed how best to mitigate these risks through preventative measures.

Indeed, according to Maria a total of 728 cases were prosecuted for health and safety breaches between 2014 and 2015, including cases where multiple offences were brought, while 586 cases were prosecuted by HSE in England and Wales, an increase of 2% from the previous year, of which 544 convictions (93%) were secured.

A total of £19 million worth of fines were metered out by courts in the year in question, Maria told delegates.

Addressing delegates, Maria said there were a number of common themes when it came to preventing accidents. These included employing a policy of continuous risk assessment and promotion of safety; having and implementing safe systems of work and SMS; maintaining and repairing port premises and equipment; training and educating employees and where appropriate contractors; implementing corrective actions recommended following an accident or near miss; carrying out inspections and audits; as well as complying with legal/statutory obligations regarding operations; and complying with relevant codes of practice and industry standards.

Maria recommended that companies engage emergency planning to include drills and legal issues not just operational aspects of an incident and institute policies, guidelines and training regarding investigations and report writing “to ensure that reports and statements record facts not opinion or assumptions and understanding that causation and corrective actions cannot be identified immediately.”

It was up to directors and senior managers to be aware of legal issues affected by all relevant parties before an incident, Maria warned.

With more than 30 years’ experience in litigation, Maria Pittordis also heads up the Marine Personal Injury team in London. She is a Health and Safety specialist and offers advice and training to clients on their responsibilities.