The captain of a Singapore-flagged cargo ship has been fined $2000 after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to notify New Zealand authorities that his vessel had grounded.
MNZ laid the charge under s31 of the Maritime Transport Act which requires incidents to be reported to MNZ as soon as possible. MNZ was not notified of the grounding off New Plymouth until 28 May, four days after the incident ocurred.
The Filipino captain, Rolando Valmeo Legaspi, 63, was sentenced in New Plymouth District Court on Wednesday.
According to Maritime New Zealand, the 177-meter MV Lake Triview, carrying a cargo of soya bean meal, anchored just after 11 a.m. on 24 May approximately 2.1 nautical miles (3.9km) off the Port of New Plymouth. Hours later, at around 5.30 p.m., the anchor began to drag and the vessel moved slowly towards the shore.
The movement went unnoticed until approximately 8 p.m., at which point the captain ordered the anchor to be raised, but a mechanical failure prevented this happening. The Port of New Plymouth was asked to put two tugs on standby, but these were not deployed and at around 9.38 p.m. the vessel ran aground on a rocky reef in approximately 7 meters of water. While the anchor was successfully retrieved, the vessel remained grounded for about five minutes until it was freed using its own engines.
MNZ was subsequently advised by the harbor master that the anchor had dragged and sought details of the incident on 26 May, but received no notification of the grounding.
Details of the grounding were not received by MNZ until late in the evening of 28 May.
After the vessel had berthed on 27 May, an inspection by divers identified approximately 12 breaches to the ballast tanks as a result of the grounding. No spill of oil was detected.
MNZ Director Keith Manch said the sentence should send a strong message to those responsible for vessels operating around New Zealand.
“It is essential that Maritime New Zealand is notified of incidents as soon as possible to ensure measures are taken immediately to protect human life and the environment,” he said.
“This incident posed a potential threat to the 21 crew, and could have had a serious impact on the environment, and yet no effort was made for some days to notify MNZ. That is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”
The vessel remains detained in New Plymouth pending arrangements for repair of the damage, according to MNZ.