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