The skipper has been fined $3,500 in the Thames District Court for causing unnecessary danger or risk by failing to keep a proper look-out and failing to use all appropriate means to determine whether a risk of collision exists. The Court also ordered the skipper to pay $5,000 in reparation to the vessel’s owner, Sanford Limited.

Maritime NZ Central Regional Compliance Manager, Michael-Paul Abbott, said keeping proper look out is fundamental to maritime safety.

Keeping proper look out prevents collisions and can save lives. In this case, Falcon ran aground and no one was injured. Had it collided with another vessel the result could have been tragic

The incident took place on 15 November 2018 when the skipper was taking the vessel to collect mussels at the Great Barrier Island mussel farm.

Two deckhands were also on board and all three crew were in the wheelhouse.

The skipper’s role included steering the vessel and navigating a safe passage around the islands on the way to Great Barrier Island. While the skipper was steering he was also filling out paper work and not keeping constant look out.

The deckhands were resting – it was before dawn, neither had been assigned as a look out and at least one of them was asleep.

The vessel’s GPS screen had been zoomed out so that the skipper could see the whole Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island to help plot a course. However, this made the small islands disappear from the picture displayed on the screen.

While the skipper used radar to notify of risk of collision, he knew there was equipment on the bow of the vessel obstructing the radar’s ability to read ahead.

Falcon did not have shoal or “closest point of approach” alarms installed.

At about 5.12am, while it was still dark, there was a loud crash. Falcon had run aground on Motuokino Island. It had been travelling at 12 knots.

The skipper then made sure the deckhands were safe and had lifejackets on, shut off the fuel and checked there were no fuel or other leaks from the vessel.

He called a nearby vessel for assistance, and advised Sanford and Maritime NZ of the incident.

Falcon suffered minor damage to its hull, was re-floated later that day and returned to Coromandel town under its own power. No one was injured.

Sanford advised the Court repairs to the vessel and lost income had cost it about $60,000.