New Zealand Fines Ports of Auckland for Excessive Speeding During Thousands of Pilot Boat Voyages

Mike Schuler
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August 14, 2020

Ports of Auckland pilot boat, Wakatere, which struck and killed a swimmer on 20 April 2017. Photo courtesy Maritime NZ

A New Zealand court has fined the Ports of Auckland and one of its pilot a total of NZD $432,400 for excessive speeding during thousands of pilot boat voyages in Waitemata Harbour.

Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL) and the master of the pilot boat, Grant More, both admitted exposing people to risk of death or serious injury.

Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said POAL has also agreed to pay $220,000 to the family of a swimmer, Leslie Gelberger, who died after being struck by POAL pilot boat, Wakatere. The incident happened on 20 April 2017, as Gelberger was swimming about 270 meters from shore.

Both POAL and More were sentenced in the Auckland District Court last month having previously pleaded guilty to one charge each under the Health and Safety at Work Act (section 48, failure to comply with a duty that exposes an individual to a risk of serious injury, serious illness or death).

The Court fined POAL NZ $424,400 (US $278,000) and More NZ $8,400 (US $5,500).

POAL admitted its pilot boats exceeded speed limits on between 3,465 and 4,257 journeys from 20 April 2017 to 31 January 2018. This is approximately 99 percent of the journeys made by POAL pilot boats, Maritime New Zealand said.

New Zealand maritime regulations set a speed limit of 5 knots within 200 meters of shore throughout the country, while Auckland Harbourmaster rules designate a 12-knot speed limit for vessels across most of the Waitemata Harbour.

Maritime NZ’s investigation into the death of Gelberger found that the pilot boat, Wakatere, piloted by More, passed through a 5-knot zone at approximately 36 knots. About 10 seconds after leaving the speed-restricted zone, the Wakatere struck and killed Gelberger while traveling at 35 knots.

More and another pilot on board the boat were unaware of the incident at the time, and on the pilot boat’s return, the Wakatere again exceeded the speed limits, traveling through the 12 knot zone at about 30 knots and through the 5 knot zone at about 22 knots.

Maritime NZ’s investigation into the incident found a pattern of excessive speed spanning many months and thousands of journeys.

“Ports of Auckland had inadequate systems to ensure its vessels did not break speed limits, and they did more than 4,200 times in nine months,” Manch said.

More admitted exceeding the speed limits on one voyage on 20 April 2017.

“The message is less speed, less harm,” Manch said.

“Responsibility is on both employers and workers – here that is the Ports of Auckland and the master of one of its pilot boats,” he added.

 

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