Wellington ferry skipper fined $1,688 after grounding

15 November 2018

The skipper of one of Wellington’s East by West ferries, Iain David Wilson, has been fined $1,688 after speeding and grounding the passenger ferry, City Cat.

Maritime NZ Central Region Compliance Manager, Michael-Paul Abbott, said Mr Wilson was the skipper of the City Cat at that time the ferry grounded at 17 knots, in a 5 knot area (31 km/h in a 9 km/h area), on a rock at Karaka Bay on 16 April 2017.

Mr Abbott said the skipper did not have the correct navigational charts, did not maintain proper look-out and had repeatedly travelled at excessive speed prior to the grounding.

Mr Wilson pleaded guilty to one charge under the Maritime Transport Act of causing unnecessary danger to the 18 crew and passengers on board, and other users of the harbour by breaching four Maritime Rules. He was sentenced in the Wellington District Court yeterday.

“The Maritime Rules are about safety – they help protect passengers and crew, vessels and the environment,” Mr Abbott said.

“The law makes the Rules mandatory and says breaching them is presumed to cause unnecessary danger or risk.

“This case shows how the Rules’ can work together. The right charts, keeping proper lookout and safe speed help give the skipper ‘situational awareness’ of what is happening around them and of possible risks to their vessel.

“Without that situational awareness Mr Wilson did not see the danger to City Cat and grounded at 10.45am on a fine, calm day.

“It was a matter of luck that no one was badly hurt and, fortunately, no fuel was spilled into the harbour. City Cat was out of service being repaired for two weeks.”

On the Sunday of the grounding, City Cat was on a regular run between Wellington city and the suburb of Seatoun. On board were 16 passengers, a deckhand and Mr Wilson.

City Cat carried the general navigational chart of Wellington harbour but not the detailed chart required by the Maritime Rules. The detailed chart shows a sudden shallowing of the water, and weed in the area 70 metres from shore. Weed indicates the presence of rocks.

The weed is ordinarily visible to vessels travelling in that area at the correct speed of 5 knots.

Mr Wilson admitted he operated City Cat at least seven times in various parts of the harbour at speeds over the 5 knot limit within 200 metres of shore.

Mr Wilson was prosecuted under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, which prohibits “dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products” and also makes it mandatory to comply with Maritime Rules (sections 65 and 66). The relevant Maritime Rules (MR) are:

  • Carry the correct navigational chart for where and how the vessel is operating (MR 25.6).
  • Proper look-out must be maintained by all available means appropriate in the conditions (MR 22.5).
  • 5 knot (9km) speed limit within 200 metres of shore or any structure (MR 91.6).
  • Travel at a safe speed so that proper action can be taken to avoid collision or stop appropriate to the circumstances and conditions (MR 22.6).

Maritime NZ “Compliance Operating Model”

Maritime NZ’s compliance work includes a range of actions – with a heavy focus on supporting and encouraging safety and environmental protection through information and education. It also includes audits and inspections, targeted campaigns, investigations and, in some cases, prosecutions.

We will choose the most appropriate intervention for the issue involved – the right tool at the right time. The Model guides those decisions.

This case arose from breaches of several Maritime Rules, one of them repeatedly, putting a vessel and all on board at risk.

The Compliance Operating Model is publically available:

Compliance Operating Model

Summary of 2017/18 statistics:

  • 1,035 notifications received and assessed
  • 461 audits of New Zealand maritime operators
  • 257 safety and security inspections of foreign ships
  • two national, targeted, health and safety inspection campaigns, one focusing on stevedores and the other on maritime operators with higher risk operations
  • 128 investigations
  • 18 prosecutions.

 

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