Auckland ferry captain fined NZ$2,500 for collision with navigation light

A Fullers Group ferry (Photo: Fullers Group official Facebook page)

The captain of a ferry operated by Auckland-based Fullers Group has been fined NZ$2,500 (US$1,650) for causing unnecessary danger by failing to maintain a proper lookout and colliding with a lit navigation buoy in Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour on April 28, 2019.

Maritime New Zealand Northern Regional Manager Neil Rowarth said Craig James Sullivan, master of the 35-metre ferry Torea, had been using a cellphone immediately before the collision.

Mr Rowarth added that, in the two minutes Mr Sullivan was using his cellphone before the collision, Torea travelled between 1.7 and 1.8 kilometres without maintaining a proper lookout.

Later that night, the Ports of Auckland pilot boat Akarana was damaged when it struck the buoy as the collision by Torea had ended up disabling a key aid to navigation and created a hazard to other vessels.

No injuries were reported on either vessel.

The collision occurred at 12:50 local time on April 28, 2019, when Torea was on a return voyage from Matiatia, Waiheke Island, to the Auckland Downtown Ferry Basin.

Mr Sullivan was observed on CCTV operating his cellphone whilst on the helm for approximately two minutes immediately before colliding with a channel marker buoy.

At the time of the collision, Torea was travelling at a speed of approximately 29 knots.

On a previous trip that night, Mr Sullivan was observed operating his cellphone for a considerably longer period whilst on the helm.

Prior to the collision, Mr Sullivan and his onboard services supervisor said they saw a white light low on the horizon that they both thought was an aircraft. The captain then used a flight tracker app on his cellphone, only putting it down five seconds before the collision.

Following the collision, Mr Sullivan informed Waitematā Harbour Control and Fullers Group of the incident.

Both men were subsequently drug- and alcohol-tested by Fullers Group, returning negative tests.

Maritime NZ investigated the incident and filed one charge under the Maritime Transport Act. Mr Sullivan pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Auckland District Court.

Maritime Rules make maintaining proper lookout in all conditions, by all means available, mandatory. A breach of Maritime Rules is deemed to breach section 65 of the Act, which prohibits “dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products.”

Click here for the other news, features and reviews comprising this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

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