Master Fined Over Offshore Wind Farm Collision

Mike Schuler
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September 4, 2014

The Master of a wind farm support vessel has been ordered to pay £3,000 (nearly US $5,000) in fines and costs over a collision with a wind turbine in the North Sea.

According to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Geoffrey Whinfrey was in command of the Island Panther when it collided with a wind turbine tower in the Sheringham Shoal wind farm on the night of 21 November 2012.

MCA reports that Whinfrey was requested by the operator, Scira Offshore Engery, to take off-duty personnel to shore as the weather worsened, with winds gusting to 45 mph, driving rain and heavy seas. As Whinfrey attemted to navigate through the wind farm, the vessel struck a turbine tower head on at approximately 12 knots, causing damage.

MCA says that passage plans had not been completed for any part of the journey and, against company policy, Whinfrey relied on the safety lights located on the wind turbine towers for navigation. The tower’s light which Island Panther struck was not illuminated, MCA said.

The collision resulted in minor injuries to some of the crew and considerable damage to the vessel.

An investigation determined that the accident happened as Whinfrey was relying solely on the turbine safety lights and didn’t make good use of the lookout and navigation equipment on board.

Whinfrey pleaded guilty at Southampton Magistrates Court on Tuesday 2 September 2014 to breaches of Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, and was fined £1,000, plus £2,000 in costs.

Captain Peter Maynard, MCA Surveyor based at the Norwich Marine Office, said: “Mr. Whinfrey relied heavily on the lights of the turbine towers to navigate through the wind farm against company policy. He displayed poor seamanship by failing to keep a proper lookout by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances. It was very lucky that no one was seriously hurt.”

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