Darren Senior of Whitley Bay crashed his boat into another vessel while operating on autopilot

Failing to keep a proper lookout has landed a Whitley Bay fishing boat skipper with a bill of £3,600 in fines and legal costs. 

In a hearing at Newcastle magistrates

court this week, Darren Senior of Whitley Bay admitted operating his

boat on autopilot while he worked at the stern.

As a result, the nine-metre

Amadeus collided with another fishing boat. Although no-one was injured

and structural damage was minimal, the vessel struck by Amadeus took on

water following the collision.

The court heard that Mr

Senior, a fisherman with more than 30 years’ experience, had finished a

day’s fishing about six-miles east of the entrance to the River Tyne and

had seen the boat he hit, which he assumed was also heading back to


However, the vessel was actually stationary while its crew dealt

with the boat’s nets. They

had seen the Amadeus approaching but had assumed it was coming to offer

assistance following an earlier radio message about the problem with

their nets.

Mr Senior realised a collision was imminent moments before

it happened and tried to take avoiding action.

When interviewed by

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) officers Mr Senior admitted

operating his vessel alone on autopilot.

At Newcastle magistrates court

on Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to failing to keep a proper

lookout, as required by Rule 5 of the International Regulations for the

prevention of collisions at sea.

In sentencing, the court

took into consideration Mr Senior’s full cooperation with the MCA, as

well as his early guilty plea. He was fined £1,000 with £2,500 costs and

a £100 victim surcharge.   

MCA surveyor Robert

Jackson, said: ‘It is essential that vessels maintain a proper and

effective lookout at all times.

‘This case highlights the risk of making

assumptions, rather than a proper assessment.

‘There is an additional

factor associated with single crewed vessels, where skippers should

remain particularly vigilant for their own and others’ safety.’

Picture: St. Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay. Credit: Alan Sands/www.hoho.btck.co.uk