More than 25 miles 'wrong way' through Dover Straits

The owner of a 105-year-old former ice-breaking tug that saw action in the Baltic in WWII was fined £20,000 for travelling the wrong direction in the Traffic Separation Scheme through Dover Straits.

At a hearing yesterday in Folkstone Magistrates Court, Mr Keith Jonathon MacGregor, from Flimwell, East Sussex, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Regulations for preventing collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

Mr MacGregor was the part owner of the leisure vessel “St David of London” a 35 tonne, 18m, steel-hulled converted ice breaker. On 24 August 2009, he was returning to Dover from a pleasure trip to Jersey.

At approximately 0847 the vessel entered the South West going shipping lane in the Dover Straits Traffic Separation Scheme with a friend of Mr MacGregor’s at the controls. For the next 3 hours 50 minutes the “St David of London” proceeded against the general direction of the traffic for the South West Lane running a total distance of some 26 miles and during this period had close encounters with three other ships two of which were carrying dangerous or polluting cargoes.

Coastguard Officers at Dover Channel Navigation Information Service (CNIS) based at Langdon Battery noted that there was an unidentified vessel proceeding the wrong way in the South West lane and requested both a passing merchant ship and the Coastguard aircraft to try and identify the vessel.

In sentencing the Chairman of the Bench said:-

“4 hours and 20 miles in the wrong lane is inexcusable.  The risk of collision between passing vessels could have been a lot worse”

The Magistrates took in to consideration Mr MacGregor’s acceptance of responsibility and his earlier plea of guilty when imposing a fine of £20,000.  Mr MacGregor was also required to pay £5,300 in costs.

Kaimes Beasley, CNIS manager, Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:

“The Dover Straits traffic separation scheme has been in place now for 32 years and is a significant factor in minimising the number of close encounters and collisions in this very busy waterway.  The rules of conduct apply to every vessel using the scheme.  Going the wrong way in a lane can have devastating consequences.”

The ship, St David of London was used during the war to help Jewish refugees escape Germany from the port of Rostock, before being captured and used as a Nazi patrol boat.