'There are no excuses for the person responsible for navigating the vessel to fall asleep on the job', say MCA

The skipper of a French fishing vessel has been
ordered to pay £11,155 in fines and costs after falling asleep and running aground near south Cornwall.

Gilles Lemaitre, aged 38, pleaded guilty to failing to keep a proper lookout, as well as another charge of endangering his vessel and crew when he appeared before Truro Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 28 August 2013 the
fishing vessel ‘Scuderia’ sailed from Roscoff in northern France towards
fishing grounds off the Lizard Peninsula.

At about 10.30pm the vessel
ran aground at Lankidden Cove between Cadgwith and Coverack, causing a diesel spillage.

Falmouth Coastguard was contacted at 11.01pm and an emergency response
activated, with the Lizard RNLI lifeboat attending together with the
Porthoustock Coastguard Rescue Team.

None of the five crew was injured but
the forward fuel tank had been ruptured, with the loss of approximately
10 tonnes of diesel.

An anti-pollution and salvage operation was put in
place and the vessel was refloated on Monday 2 September 2013. Pollution
was minimal with no longer term problems anticipated.

Lemaitre stated the grounding had been
caused by him falling asleep on the bridge after having had little sleep
when off-watch and self-prescribing Codeine tablets.

Guilty plea

At Truro Magistrates’ Court, he
pleaded guilty to both offences. In sentencing, the court took into
consideration his full cooperation with the Maritime and Coastguard
Agency (MCA) in this matter as well as his early guilty plea.

He was fined £2,800 for conduct endangering ships structures and individuals; £2,800 for failing to keep a proper lookout;
£5,435 in costs to the MCA, and ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge.

Tony Heslop, the MCA’s area operations manager for the South West said: ‘There are no excuses for the person responsible for navigating the
vessel to fall asleep on the job.

‘More so when that person is the
skipper who has taken medication that could impact on him staying awake
and alert. He could have called one of the other crew members to come to
the wheelhouse and take over.

“This was a serious incident which could have had much more severe consequences.”


The fishing vessel Scuderia. Credit: MCA

An AIS track of Scuderia