$514,300 fines and reparation after grossly overloaded fishing vessel sinks

04 March 2020

The sinking of a grossly overloaded fishing boat, Victory II, has led to Wellington fishing company Nino’s Limited, its sole director, and the vessel’s master today being fined a total of $449,500, and the company being ordered to pay $64,800 in reparation to the crew for unpaid wages.

Maritime NZ Central Region Compliance Manager Michael-Paul Abbott said Victory II should have carried no more than five tonnes of fish. Instead, it was loaded with at least 28 tonnes when it sank near Kaikōura on 10 June 2017.

“That is like putting 20 medium-sized cars onto a small fishing boat,” Mr Abbott said.

“Overloading sinks ships. The boat sank in only two minutes. The four men on-board were very fortunate to be rescued. This trip could have ended in tragedy and the lives of the crew were unnecessarily put in danger.

“It is also important people understand that company officials, not only the skipper, are responsible for the safety of all the people on board a ship or a boat.”

Maritime NZ investigated the sinking, and prosecuted the company and its director, Antonio Basile, and the vessel’s master, Shane McCauley. They pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, and the company also pleaded guilty to two further charges under the Maritime Transport Act. They were sentenced in the Wellington District Court today.

The investigation found that for a year before Victory II sank the vessel had been consistently overloaded, with its smallest catch being 5.584 tonnes and its largest 27 tonnes.

Both Mr Basile and Mr McCauley told Maritime NZ they did not know the vessel’s load capacity was five tonnes, and only Mr Basile has seen the vessel’s “stability book”, which sets the limit on loading and includes other safety information.

The investigation also found that Nino’s had stopped paying wages to two of Victory II’s crew after the sinking. An employer must pay seafarers’ wages for two months after a vessel sinks or until they have new employment, whichever occurs first.

Summary of the sinking

On 7 June 2017 the Victory II left Wellington to fish off the coast of the South Island, near Kaikōura. The master and three crew were on board.

Victory II fished on 8-10 June 2017 then began its return to Wellington. The weather and sea conditions were good. However, overloading made the vessel so low in the water that its back deck flooded and it began to sink.

At 11.27am the master radioed a distress call and the crew launched a life raft. The vessel sank so quickly that the four men did not have enough time to put on their life jackets.

Helicopters were mobilised but the four men were rescued by a local fisherman, who had launched his boat on hearing the distress call and recovered them to shore.

Summary of charges

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Nino’s, Mr Basile and Mr McCauley pleaded guilty to one charge each that they had exposed people to risk of death or serious injury by failing in their duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, people’s health and safety.

Nino’s was charged under sections 48 and 36(1)(a), Mr Basile under sections 48 and 44, and Mr McCauley under sections 48 and 45(b).

Maritime Transport Act 1994

Nino’s pleaded guilty to two charges under section 23 that it did not pay two seafarers’ wages after the sinking. One was owed 47 days’ wages and the other 12 days.

Compliance operating model

Maritime NZ’s Compliance Operating Model describes how Maritime NZ works with the maritime sector to help it comply with the law. It also guides Maritime NZ’s decisions about taking action where there has been a problem. Prosecution is one of the options available.

Find out more about the Compliance Operating Model.

Compliance model

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