Tauranga sentencing highlights watchkeeping failures

19 August 2022

Skippers are being reminded of their watchkeeping responsibilities after a vessel hit rocks at Mt Maunganui, damaging the boat and putting lives at risk.

Esmond Kelly O’Reilly was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court this week on a number of charges under the Maritime Transport and Health and Safety at Work acts.

The charges included operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to any other person or property, and operating a vessel outside its prescribed limits.

The charges relate to an incident on 31 January, 2020, when the 11.9-metre fishing boat Miss Fleur struck rocks at the base of Mt Maunganui. It was returning to Tauranga late at night after a day’s fishing trip.

Mr O’Reilly had fallen asleep at the helm, waking up just as the vessel hit the rocks. The three passengers climbed on to the rocks, from where they and Mr O’Reilly were later rescued, whilst the vessel eventually broke up and was a total loss.

Maritime NZ’s Central compliance manager, Blair Simmons, says the sentencing is another reminder for all skippers to ensure they keep their passengers safe and ensure the safety of other maritime users and property.

“Despite feelings of tiredness and a micro-sleep, Mr O’Reilly did not take any steps to avoid falling sleep again,” he says.

“He could have asked a passenger to join him at the helm to help keep a proper watch.

“Every vessel must at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate to mitigate the risk of collision or grounding.”

Skippers and vessel operators are reminded of the importance of proper fatigue management with extensive guidance available through this link: https://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/content/commercial/safety/health-and-safety/fatigue.asp

Editor’s note:

Mr O’Reilly was sentenced and fined $7000.

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