The owner of a harbour tanker has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay more than £7,000 costs after pleading guilty to a charge of operating a vessel for being dangerously unsafe.

Joseph O’Connor, aged 64, was fined at a hearing in Southampton Magistrates Court today following his guilty plea to the charge which was brought until the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

In March 2009 the Wadestone (then known as the Humber Star) sank at its berth on Weston Wharf in the River Solent.

As a result, the vessel was detained by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) as being dangerously unsafe on 26th March, 2009.

At the time it was detained it was noted that Wadestone (Humber Star) had been poorly maintained and repaired and was not fit to go to sea.

In May 2011, Joseph O’Connor bought the Wadestone which was inspected and released from detention on 11 October in that same year, on the basis it would not be going to sea and would be working in the sheltered waters of the Solent.

On 31 October 2011, the Wadestone called the UK Coastguard for help as it had a hole and was taking on water. At the time it was about 34 nautical miles south-west of Portland Bill in the Casquet Traffic Separation Scheme, while en route to Malta. The Wadestone had left Southampton during the early hours of the previous day, and was escorted back by RNLI Lifeboat to the port, arriving on 1 November.

After the Wadestone arrived at Southampton, it was boarded by two MCA surveyors. During the course of their inspection, they found a number of serious deficiencies including hull cracking, corrosion and lack of vessel and crew certification for the intended voyage. The vessel was detained by the MCA as being dangerously unsafe.

The ship’s documentation was requested but it was later admitted there were none.
It was later released from detention after repair work had been carried out. The Wadestone was sold on to a third party and left Southampton on 19 August 2012.

Joseph O’Connor pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 by his unsafe operation of the Wadestone. He was fined £3,000 with £7,182.20 costs.

Amir Esmiley, area operations manager at the Southampton Marine Office said: ‘This vessel should not have left the Solent in the condition it was in. It triggered a major search and rescue operation when it sprang a leak and left its crew in danger. Fortunately for all involved, the situation was safely resolved.

‘If there is a need for commercial vessels that are not designed or built for open water passages, then the advice of the MCA should be sought.’