Wellington ferry company fined NZ$380,000 after grounding

Photo: East by West Ferries

The owners and operators of Wellington passenger ferry City Cat, East by West Ferries, have been fined NZ$380,000 (US$244,000) for failing to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on board and other sea-users following an incident where the vessel grounded on rocks near Karaka Bay in April 2017.

An investigation also found that the company’s vessels had been regularly exceeding safe speeds close to shore.
East by West was sentenced in Wellington’s District Court on Tuesday, October 30, after pleading guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

On April 16, 2017, at approximately 10:45 local time, City Cat was travelling at 17 knots in a five-knot area close to the rocky shoreline at Karaka Bay when it grounded on a rock. This caused significant damage to the vessel and minor injuries to passengers who were jolted off their seats.

During the investigation into the grounding, it was discovered that East by West skippers regularly breached Maritime Rules by travelling at excessive speeds close to land.

Speeding continued after the grounding, from April 17, 2017 to April 12, 2018.

East by West received fines of NZ$280,000 (US$180,000) for the grounding and NZ$100,000 (US$64,000) for travelling at excessive speeds close to land.

The company’s duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act required it to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers and others who could be affected by its work – including passengers and other sea-users.

Maritime New Zealand Central Region Compliance Manager Mr Michael-Paul Abbott said that Maritime NZ is focussed on ensuring that ships are operated safely and without risks to people’s health. Both the grounding and the repeated speeding were serious matters that could have resulted in adverse outcomes.

The captain of City Cat pleaded guilty to a charge under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act for operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to other persons in relation to the grounding. The individual was convicted and fined NZ$1,688 (US$1,085) in November 2018.

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