£73,000 in fines and costs for operator of coaster ship after crew failed to keep a proper lookout

The operator of

a coaster ship which grounded in an environmentally sensitive area off

the Northumberland coast has been ordered to pay nearly £73,000 in fines

and costs after its crew failed to keep a proper lookout
.


On the evening

of 15 March 2013, the MV Danio left Perth, in Scotland, with a cargo of

logs, destined for Ghent, in Belgium.

The Master was on watch until

around midnight when he handed over to the Chief Officer, who had

contracted an eye infection after handling a previous ‘dusty’ cargo.


After coming on

watch the Chief Officer’s eyes became increasingly irritable, so he sat

on a settee, put his head back, and administered some prescription eye

drops. He then inadvertently fell asleep.


He was woken up

90 minutes later by the noise of the ship grounding in the early hours

of 16 March. Examination of the AIS track showed that the vessel went in

a straight line from the Firth of Forth until it ran aground on rocks

underneath the Farne Island lighthouse.

There was no lookout on watch,

so the Chief Officer was alone on the bridge.


The MV Danio

crossed an outer reef before hitting a rocky shelf. It hit head on, but

then pivoted about 180˚, which resulted in the whole ship becoming stuck

on the rocks.


The crew did

not contact HM Coastguard for an hour after the incident occurred.

However, they contacted the vessel’s owners within that time. 


The vessel was

finally removed on 28 March 2013, when tidal conditions allowed it to be

refloated and it was towed to Blyth for inspection.

Sentencing

At a hearing

at Newcastle Crown Court, the operator of the MV Danio, Cuxship

Management GmbH, of Cuxhaven, Germany, was fined £60,000 and ordered to

pay costs of £12,796.77, along with a victim surcharge of £120, after

pleading guilty to a breach of UK maritime legislation.


Judge Brian

Forster said: ‘It is clear to me the shocking failure to comply with

regulations led the vessel to sail on automatically.


‘The potential

for disaster was obvious, as it sailed on silently at night, with no

lookout, with the threat to other vessels at sea.’


Alan Thomson, Surveyor in Charge at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Tyne Marine Office, said: ‘It was very fortunate that the damage to the MV Danio was relatively small and that there were no injuries or deaths.


‘It is also fortunate that the effects on such an environmentally sensitive area as the Farne Islands were minimal.


‘The

requirement to keep a good lookout is set out in UK, national and

international legislation. All owners and operators are reminded to

ensure that their vessels are being operated and manned correctly.’