Fullers Fined NZD 130,000 after Ferry Collided with Wharf

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Auckland-based ferry company Fullers Group has been fined NZD 40,000 (around USD 28,000) and ordered to pay reparations of NZD 90,000 after at least 19 passengers were injured in a collision.

On February 17, 2015, the company’s ferry Kea collided with Victoria wharf at Devonport.

During the sentencing proceeding which took place in Auckland District Court on May 29, the company has pleaded guilty to a charge laid by Maritime NZ related to health and safety failures.

Neil Rowarth, Maritime NZ Regional Compliance Manager, Northern, said while the company had identified problems with the vessel’s digital control system, it had failed to adequately manage the risk to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.

As informed, a new control system installed on board Kea in October 2014 was designed to allow the master to control the vessel from four separate stations on the bridge. Faults were identified with the system when transferring control between stations in the system’s automatic mode of operation.

However, Fullers continued to operate the Kea. To address the risks from the control system issues, the company implemented procedures which included switching off the control system’s automatic mode and operating it manually. However, this was inadequate to mitigate risks to passengers and crew, according to Maritime NZ.

On the day of the incident, the master attempted to transfer control between stations. The transfer was unsuccessful and the master lost control of one of the vessel’s thrusters, hitting the wharf at a speed of approximately 13 km/h.

As bench seating on the main deck of the vessel was not secured, the impact with the wharf caused the seating to topple forward landing on some passengers.

“The company advised Maritime NZ that a procedure was in place to manage issues with the control system but this procedure was not sufficient to properly manage the risk. When the collision occurred, unsecured seating exacerbated the harm to passengers. The need to have adequately secured seating was especially important because of known problems with the control system,” Rowarth said.

“This sentence should send a strong message to industry that risks must be properly managed,” Rowarth concluded.

Following the incident, Kea was detained by Maritime NZ and returned to service in July 2015 after inspection.

World Maritime News

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