Impaired drivers have no place operating vessels

17 March 2022

Following a recent judgment in the Queenstown District Court, Maritime New Zealand is reinforcing the message that those impaired with drugs and alcohol have no place being behind the wheel.

This comes after a tourism operator and the driver were sentenced after a jet boat crashed near Queenstown on 26 January 2020, injuring four of the 23 on board.

The incident saw the vessel strike two rocks, at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour, while travelling along the Kawarau River.

A toxicology report found the driver, who was at the time of the incident casually employed by Go Orange Limited, had a mix of both drugs and alcohol in their system at the time of the crash.

Maritime New Zealand’s Southern Compliance Manager, Domonic Venz says this is an incredibly frustrating and disappointing incident.

"Anyone stepping on-board a vessel, especially a commercial vessel should be safe in the knowledge the skipper is suitably qualified, fit to operate the vessel, clean and sober," he says.

Despite having a drug and alcohol policy in place, at the time of the incident Go Orange did not conduct random drug or alcohol tests on its casual drivers who were not undertaking regular shifts.

"Whether the driver regularly worked or picked up odd shifts, both they and the company have a responsibility to their passengers and the tourism sector as a whole.

"We want all maritime operators to use this as a reminder to check their policies and talk with staff about their responsibilities," Domonic Venz says.

The company has since changed its drug and alcohol practices to address the issues identified.

Editor’s note:

The Court has now issued its reserved decision.
Go Orange has been fined $150,000, while the driver was fined $10,000.

The prosecution occurred under the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015). Both pleaded guilty to the charges.

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