Fuller’s skipper fined $2,500 after colliding with navigation light

10 August 2020

The skipper of Auckland-based Fullers Group ferry, Torea, has been fined $2,500 for causing unnecessary danger by failing to maintain a proper lookout, and colliding with a lit navigation buoy in the Waitemata Harbour.

Maritime NZ Northern Regional Manager, Neil Rowarth, said, Torea’s master, Craig James Sullivan, had been using a cellphone immediately before the collision.

“In the two minutes Mr Sullivan was using his cellphone before the collision, Torea travelled between 1.7 and 1.8 kilometres without maintaining a proper lookout,” Mr Rowarth said.

Later that night, the Ports of Auckland pilot boat, Akarana, was damaged when it struck the buoy.

“Through inattention, Mr Sullivan had disabled a key aid to navigation and created a hazard to other vessels,” Mr Rowarth said.

“Fortunately in this case, no one was injured on either vessel.”

The collision occurred at 12:50am on Sunday, 28 April 2019, when the 35m Torea was on a return voyage from Matiatia, Waiheke Island to the Auckland Downtown Ferry Basin.

Mr Sullivan was observed on CCTV operating his cellphone whilst on the helm for approximately two minutes immediately before colliding with a channel marker buoy.

At the time of collision Torea was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 knots (54 kmph).

On a previous trip that night Mr Sullivan was observed operating his cellphone for a considerably longer period whilst on the helm.

Prior to the collision Mr Sullivan and his on board services supervisor said they saw a white light low on the horizon that they both thought was an aircraft. Mr Sullivan used a flight tracker app on his cellphone, only putting it down five seconds before the collision.

Following the collision, Mr Sullivan informed Harbour Control and Fullers Group of the incident. Both men were subsequently drug and alcohol tested by Fullers Group, returning negative tests.

Maritime NZ investigated the incident and filed one charge under the Maritime Transport Act. Mr Sullivan pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Auckland District Court.

Maritime Rules make maintaining proper lookout in all conditions, by all means available, mandatory. A breach of Maritime Rules is deemed to breach section 65 of the Act, which prohibits “dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products”.

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