ESSO and one of its contractors have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds after a sailor was crushed to death at Hampshire’s Fawley oil refinery.

Father of three Juan Romero was working on a fuel tanker which had docked at the giant Esso-owned site in August 2008 when he was killed.

A fuel pipe fell on top of him when the jib holding it collapsed because of corrosion.

The court heard how contract firm Austin & McLean had failed to properly inspect the section of the 1950s-era crane before it gave way.

Refinery owner Esso Petroleum Company Ltd admitted a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, requiring owners of all work equipment to ensure it is maintained properly.

Austin & McLean pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of non-employees.

A charge of corporate manslaughter was dropped by the CPS in June this year because it said there was insufficient evidence.

Winchester Crown court heard how Mr Romero, 40, from Honduras, had been working as a deckhand to pay for the education of his three children, and that his wife Angelina had been left in “shock and distress” by his sudden death.

Esso was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 court costs while Austin & McLean received a £60,000 fine plus £30,000 costs.

Mr Justice Cranston said the contractors had failed to conduct thorough examinations – but said Esso had been ultimately responsible because it should have ensured they were carried out. He said: “In my view it cannot push all the responsibility on Austin & McLean.

“Esso had a monitoring role in ensuring outside contractors appointed to the task were satisfactorily carrying it out.

“In my view Esso had to make a judgement not only in choosing its contractors but also of the effectiveness of Austin & McLean as it performed its contractual role.”

Earlier Esso’s barrister, Richard Latham, said the company had thought the contractor was competent and carrying out necessary inspections.

He also highlighted Esso’s previously excellent safety record at Fawley and how Esso fully cooperated with the Health and Safety Executive investigation.

In a statement after the hearing Esso said it was “deeply saddened” by the incident and that safety was a “top priority”, with a number of initiatives to ensure “continuous improvement” on this front.

“Every aspect of our culture today rests on our clearly stated corporate vision of a workplace where ‘Nobody Gets Hurt’.”

Austin & McLean Ltd told of “their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Romero for their untimely loss”.

In a statement, the firm added: “From 1997 Austin & McLean had been contracted by Esso to carry out inspections of lifting equipment at the terminal.

“The part of the crane that failed was a ‘pad eye’. A section of the pad eye was severely corroded but this corrosion could not be seen unless the crane was dismantled. The prosecution’s evidence found that pad eye had been in a corroded condition for in excess of 20 years before the incident.

“Austin & McLean was not responsible for the maintenance of the crane.”