Wellington ferry skipper fined NZ$1,688 after grounding

Photo: NZ Herald
Photo: NZ Herald

The skipper of one of Wellington’s East by West ferries, Iain David Wilson, has been fined NZ$1,688 (US$1,152) after speeding and grounding the passenger ferry City Cat.

Maritime New Zealand Central Region Compliance Manager, Michael-Paul Abbott, said Mr Wilson was the skipper of City Cat at that time the ferry grounded at 17 knots in a five-knot area on a rock at Karaka Bay on April 16, 2017.

Mr Abott 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 on Wednesday, November 14.

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 five knots.

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

Mr Wilson was prosecuted under the Maritime Transport Act of 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).

– Five knot 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).

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