The skipper pleaded guilty to one charge under the Maritime Transport Act of causing unnecessary danger to the 18 crew and passengers onboard, and other users of the harbour by breaching four Maritime Rules. He was sentenced in the Wellington District Court on 14 November.

The Maritime Rules are about safety – they help protect passengers and crew, vessels and the environment. 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...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,

...Mr Abbott said.

The incident

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

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.

The skipper 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. He 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).

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.