Skipper convicted following collision

27 July 2011

A commercial master’s failure to keep a proper lookout caused a serious collision with a sailing vessel containing 12 Outward Bound students that could have had deadly consequences, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

Michael John Lemberg, 49, former master of the Picton-based Dolphin Watch vessel Delphinus, was today convicted and ordered to pay reparation totalling $4,400 in the Blenheim District Court, after admitting one charge of failing to maintain a proper lookout under the Maritime Offences Regulations.

The charge was brought by MNZ following an investigation into a collision between the 12.9m Delphinus and the 10m Outward Bound sailing cutter Matahorua, between Picton and Torea Bay, on 5 February 2011.

Mr Lemberg, unemployed, was ordered to pay reparation of $2000 to Outward Bound and $200 to each of the 12 victims who were on board the Matahorua when the Delphinus, with 14 passengers and 3 crew on board, smashed into them. The collision sheared off thebow of the Matahorua and toppled its 8m mast. Just before the accident, students on board the Outward Bound vessel and Mr Lemberg’s own crew had also tried to warn him of the impending collision, with some of the students jumping overboard moments before impact. 

MNZ Manager Maritime Investigations, Steve van der Splinter, said ten of the students were later treated for minor injuries, with two others treated for suspected fractures, but later discharged with severe bruising. No-one on board the Delphinus was hurt.

Despite excellent visibility on the day of the accident, Mr van der Splinter said Mr Lemberg had failed to watch out for the other vessel. Moments before the accident, Mr Lemberg had been looking down at his instruments, and later admitted to MNZ investigators that he had not kept a proper lookout.

“Maintaining a proper lookout is a fundamental principle of safe navigation, and is the standard that should be expected from any prudent skipper. This was a serious accident, and it’s lucky that we’re not dealing with more serious injuries or death.

“The accident highlights the importance of masters also relying on their sight and hearing to keep an effective watch out for other vessels.”

Mr van der Splinter said maritime collision prevention regulations also required skippers driving powered vessels in similar situations to keep out of the way of sailing vessels or vessels powered by oars, as these vessels were not as manoeuvrable.

*Media note: to arrange an interview with a Safe Boating Advisor volunteer in your area, please contact Alistair Thomson on 027 572 9258.

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