Skipper sentenced for watch keeping failings

12 August 2022

A failure to keep watch has been identified as the reason a vessel ran aground at a sentencing at the Nelson District Court this week.

Skipper Tony Phillipson has been sentenced under the Maritime Transport Act, after the Mistral ran aground in July 2021, north of the Whanganui Inlet in the Tasman Region.

The incident occurred after Mr Phillipson put the vessel onto auto-pilot while he was in the wheelhouse.

Southern Compliance Manager Domonic Venz says even when auto-pilot is set up and the course is plotted, the skipper needs to pay attention and monitor the course the vessel is on.

“Sadly this didn’t take place on the Mistral as Mr Phillipson fell asleep.”

As a result of the incident the vessel suffered serious damage and could not be salvaged.

Failing to properly keep watch increases the risk of a vessel being involved in a collision, or as occurred in this case, running aground. 

Domonic Venz says “keeping a good watch is critically important. The safety of everyone on the vessel is in your hands”.

A proper lookout should be maintained at all times, he says.

Editor’s note:

Tony Phillipson was sentenced under the Maritime Transport Act, for operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to a person or property.

He was fined $3000 and ordered to pay $130 in costs. In fining Phillipson, the judge noted that he had lost approximately $250,000 from uninsured losses arising out of the incident. It was accepted that this was not a mitigating factor of the offending, but rather, an absence of an aggravating factor. 

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