The operator of a coaster ship which grounded in an environmentally sensitive area off the Northumberland coast has been ordered to pay nearly £73,000 in fines and costs after its crew failed to keep a proper lookout.
On the evening of 15 March 2013, the MV Danio left Perth, in Scotland, with a cargo of logs, destined for Ghent, in Belgium. The master was on watch until around midnight when he handed over to the chief officer, who had contracted an eye infection after handling a previous ‘dusty’ cargo.
After coming on watch the chief officer’s eyes became increasingly irritable, so he sat on a settee, put his head back, and administered some prescription eye drops. He then inadvertently fell asleep.
He was woken up 90 minutes later by the noise of the ship grounding in the early hours of 16 March. Examination of the AIS track showed that the vessel went in a straight line from the Firth of Forth until it ran aground on rocks underneath the Farne Island lighthouse. There was no lookout on watch, so the chief officer was alone on the bridge.
The MV Danio crossed an outer reef before hitting a rocky shelf. It hit head on, but then pivoted about 180˚, which resulted in the whole ship becoming stuck on the rocks.
The crew did not contact HM Coastguard for an hour after the incident occurred. However, they contacted the vessel’s owners within that time. The vessel was finally removed on 28 March 2013, when tidal conditions allowed it to be refloated and it was towed to Blyth for inspection.
At a hearing today (27 March 2014) at Newcastle Crown Court, the operator of the MV Danio, Cuxship Management GmbH, of Cuxhaven, Germany, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,796.77, along with a victim surcharge of £120, after pleading guilty to a breach of UK maritime legislation.
HH Judge Brian Forster said:
It is clear to me the shocking failure to comply with regulations led the vessel to sail on automatically.
The potential for disaster was obvious, as it sailed on silently at night, with no lookout, with the threat to other vessels at sea.
Alan Thomson, surveyor in charge at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Tyne marine office, said:
It was very fortunate that the damage to the MV Danio was relatively small and that there were no injuries or deaths.
It is also fortunate that the effects on such an environmentally sensitive area as the Farne Islands were minimal.
The requirement to keep a good lookout is set out in UK, national and international legislation. All owners and operators are reminded to ensure that their vessels are being operated and manned correctly
An MP3 audio interview with MCA Enforcement Officer Captain Andy Phillips is available on request.
Pictures of the MV Danio aground are available on MCA’s website