Trawler Captain Gets Suspended Sentence for Running Vessel Aground Off Plymouth

FV Algrie trawler grounded
FV Algrie. Photo: Ultimate Shot/John Baldry via HM Coastguard

A fisherman with over 40 years experience has been sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to offenses under Britain’s Merchant Shipping Act. Michael Kinnaird had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges in court on December 6.

Kinnaird’s vessel, the 21-meter trawler FV Algrie, ran aground at about 8:45 p.m. local time on October 7, 2017 after leaving its moorings at Sutton Harbor in Plymouth, England.

According to the Coastguard, the vessel continued out of the harbor entrance but did not alter course into the shipping channel. Instead, the FV Algrie kept a steady course at seven knots before running aground at Mountbatten Breakwater. 

Minor damage was caused to the vessel and it was recovered back to its moorings on the next high tide.

When interviewed by MCA Enforcement Officers, Kinnaird said he had navigated into and out of the harbour hundreds of times, but on this occasion, became confused when he saw lights from anglers who were fishing from the breakwater. He was asked why he didn’t reduce his speed or reverse, use his navigation aids or even his spot light, but he could give no answer.

None of the five crew on board were injured and there was no reported pollution as a result.

Kinnaird was sentenced to a total of four months in prison, which has been suspended for two years. He was also ordered to pay costs of £5000 and £115 victim surcharge.

In passing sentence, District Judge Taylor said that alcohol did affect Kinnaird’s actions that night and he didn’t accept his explanation about being confused by the lights on the breakwater.

Ian Blair, technical manager from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s marine office at Plymouth said, “Preparing a comprehensive passage plan and maintaining a safe and proper navigational watch at all times, by use of all available means, is of paramount importance in order to prevent incidents such as this from occurring.”