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Sleeping skipper fined after striking wharf

by Maritime NZ 30 Mar 2020 01:05 PDT 30 March 2020
Seaview Marina, near Port Howard, Wellington, NZ © stuff.co.nz

The sole director of Wellington-based Megisti Sailing Charters, Timothy James Newman, has been fined $2,500 for being asleep at the wheel of the catamaran MV Megisti when it collided with the Port Howard Wharf.

Maritime NZ Central Compliance Manager, Michael-Paul Abbott, said Mr Newman was severely fatigued and the only person on board at the time of the collision, at 8am, Saturday, 16 November 2017.

“Fatigue is a major problem on ships,” Mr Abbott said. “Tired crew put themselves and others in serious danger.

“We are working with the maritime industry to help crews find better ways to manage fatigue but where reasonable steps are not taken and people or property are put at risk, then Maritime NZ will take action.”

Mr Newman was asleep for about 20 minutes as Megisti motored with no one in control through one of the busiest parts of the harbour used by kayakers, boaties, cross-harbour ferries and oil tankers.

“It was just pure good luck that no one was hurt or killed,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Newman pleaded guilty to one charge under the Maritime Transport Act of operating a ship in a way that caused unnecessary danger or risk to people and property. He was sentenced in the Wellington District Court on Friday afternoon.

Summary of the collision

In the period leading up to the collision Mr Newman had developed a broken sleeping pattern. He slept on board Megisti at Queens Wharf, often being woken by people leaving nearby pubs and restaurants and by late night and early morning phone calls from people booking charters.

The day before the collision Mr Newman made three charter voyages before berthing at Queen’s Wharf and then having several beers. He slept on board for up to five hours and forty-five minutes.

He skippered Megisti under power (not using its sails) across the harbour, planning to arrive at the Seaview Marina next to Point Howard at about 8am.

He fell asleep shortly after changing course at the southern end of Matiu/Somes Island.

Megisti continued under autopilot until colliding with the wharf, which woke Mr Newman.

The collision caused significant damage to Megisti but only minor damage to the wharf. The wharf carries a fuel line used to offload oil from tankers berthed in Wellington Harbour. There was no damage to the fuel line nor any oil spill or fire.

Information to help manage fatigue

The information is predominantly from work done with the fishing industry but is equally applicable to others working at sea. www.maritimenz.govt.nz/fatigue

Compliance operating model

Maritime NZ’s Compliance Operating Model describes how Maritime NZ works with the maritime sector to help it comply with the law. It also guides Maritime NZ’s decisions about taking action where there has been a problem. Prosecution is one of the options available.

For a related story from luxury launch to unsalvageable wreck

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