Motor cruiser delivery skipper fined for navigation error in Dover Straits

An experienced delivery skipper who motored the wrong way for 15 miles inside a traffic separation scheme (TSS) has been ordered to pay a £6,000 fine plus more than £2,000 costs.

The incident occurred in the Dover Straits Traffic Separation Scheme on the 5 March 2008. Skipper Lee Choat was delivering a 36ft motor cruiser from Brighton to the River Crouch in Essex.

At approximately 10.40 a.m. the vessel entered the South West shipping lane heading in a north easterly direction against the general flow of traffic. The vessel continued in this lane for approximately 50minutes before exiting the South West lane and re-entering the Inshore Traffic Zone.

Coastguard Officers based at Langdon Battery, Dover Harbour, made a number of unsuccessful attempts to contact the vessel by VHF radio. A passing ship was able to describe the craft and the Coastguard aircraft was launched. Having left the lane Mr Choat became aware of the aircraft activity and answered a radio call.

The Chairman of the Bench said that there were four aggravating factors in this case
1. The speed and distance of transgression
2. The experience of Mr Choat
3. It was a commercial voyage
4. A significant error in navigation

In arriving at the fine they took into account his early guilty plea and co-operation with the MCA. It was also stated that if Mr Choat had not pleaded not guilty at the earliest possible opportunity then the fine would have been significantly higher.

Kaimes Beasley, Channel Navigation Information Service Manager at Dover Coastguard said:

‘Safety in the Dover Straits Traffic Separation Scheme is dependant on all vessels, no matter what shape size or description, closely following the requirements of rule 10 of the Colregs.’