Two vessels fail in watchkeeping responsibilities resulting in collision at sea

15 December 2022

A collision between two vessels 50 nautical miles off the West Coast of the North Island is being put down to a failure to keep watch.

The sole director of Wild Fish Limited, Cory Stone was this week sentenced in the Porirua District Court for his part, in the incident, as the skipper of the Norman McLeod. Earlier in the year, Christopher Richards, skipper of the Lady Jane was sentenced for his role in the incident.

Watchkeeping means that every vessel at all times must keep a lookout in order to make a full appraisal of the risk of collision as required by the collision prevention regulations. This is to ensure the vessel is clear of risks when on the water. Risks can include other vessels or natural hazards.

The incident occurred at around 6.30 am, 21 January 2021 off the Taranaki Coast.

At the time, visibility was limited to about one and a half miles due to fog in the area.

As well as the skipper, the Norman McLeod had two crew on board. While the Lady Jane only had skipper Christopher Richards on board a separate breach of the Maritime Transport Act he pleaded guilty to in August this year.

Neither vessel had anyone in the wheelhouse when the collision occurred, and both were traveling at about six knots.

Manager General Regulatory, Central Scott Bernie Says there were approximately 20 to 30 vessels within three nautical miles of the two vessels at the time.

“Leaving the wheelhouse with that many vessels around without assessing the risk of collision, was a high risk decision.

 “With the number of vessels in the area, maintaining a proper look-out should have been the top priority of both skippers to avoid potential collisions.

“Maritime NZ has prosecuted several skippers this year for watch keeping failings, and we need watch keeping to be a priority.

“As well as being a legal requirement, it is a very simple way to avoid collisions and accidents involving natural hazards.  As the Judge said in Richards’ sentencing, the incident was entirely avoidable,” Scott Bernie says 

The Lady Jane sustained damage to the bow which required emergency repairs, while the Norman McLeod suffered cosmetic damage.  Fortunately no one was injured.


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