The captain of a Dutch cargo ship that ran aground off Northern Ireland earlier this month has been fined £1,000 after pleading guilty to failing to keep a proper lookout.
The Russian Master, Aleksandr Iakovtsov, pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA). He was charged under the Merchant Shipping Distress Signals and Prevention of Collision Regulations 1996 and also of failing to safely navigate his ship and causing serious damage to the ship (in breach of section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995).
The MV ‘Ruyter’ was carrying a cargo of timber from Lemosov, Russia to Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland when it when it grounded on the north coast of Rathlin Island at about 10:30 p.m. local time on October 10.
The ship called HM Coastguard Belfast and reported the grounding, and later the ship refloated under its own power. The ship reported no damage at the time and continued her voyage to Warren point, reporting to the Coastguard every hour.
When the ship arrived at Warrenpoint a few hours later, the pilot noticed the ship was .75 meters by the head and had a list. The timber deck cargo had also shifted a little, and the harbormaster reported there was flooding to the bow thrust compartment and forepeak tank.
An inspection of the vessel later revealed extensive damage over the forward third of the hull. The Coastguard said one of her double bottom tanks was breached and flooded, in addition to the forepeak and bow thrust compartment.
Due to the strong winds associated with hurricane Ophelia, the ship was allowed to berth in Warrenpoint on 15 October 2017, where Captain Ruyter was detained.
“It should have been apparent to you as an experienced mariner that you were on a collision course as you left Islay towards Northern Ireland,” His Worship Paul Copeland said in his ruling. “You chose to leave the bridge as the ship approached the coast of Ireland. It should have been apparent to you from the radar that you were getting close to the shore. The lights on Rathlin should also be apparent to you. You are fortunate the ship struck a shallow patch under the cliffs and that you were able to come off in a short time.
“You did make an immediate report and engaged the support and rescue services. Fortunately, no one onboard was injured. It is understandable that you may not have been aware of the extent of the damage until after some time, fortunately, there was no further incident. I’m satisfied it was not aggravated by alcohol and that there were no other ships put in danger by the progress of your ship. I am also taking into account you have been 31 years at sea with 16 years as captain and in this context, you have been relieved of your command and this will affect your future work.
“I fine you £1,000, or 28 days in prison if this is not paid within 24 hours. You will remain in custody until the fine is paid,” Copeland concluded.
The master was released later the same day and returned to Russia.
Captain Bill Bennett, Technical Manager for the MCA for Northern Ireland, said: “I am not surprised at the extent of the damage. The Captain is very lucky that the outcome was not more serious. I am very concerned that he failed to have a lookout on watch with him and that the off-watch alarm and ECDIS alarms should have been switched on – this put his crew and his vessel at risk. Thankfully there was no pollution from this incident.
“Keeping people safe is at the heart of what we do and we are committed to working with our partner agencies to protect those at sea by stopping dangerous practices and vessels making their way on the water, and to hold accountable those responsible,” Bennet said.