Grounding of New Zealand ferry leads to fine

East by West Company Ltd, the owner and operator of Wellington, New Zealand, passenger ferry City Cat, have been fined NZ$380,000 (US$244,000) as a result of an accident in which the vessel grounded on rocks near Karaka Bay, New Zealand, in April 2017.

The Company was fined  for failing to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on board and other users of the sea. An investigation had found that the company’s vessels had regularly been exceeding safe speeds when close to shore.

The incident on April 16th 2017 saw City Cat was travelling at 17 knots in a five knot area, close to the rocky shoreline at Karaka Bay. It grounded on a rock, causing significant damage to the vessel and minor injuries to several of the 16 passengers on board.

City Cat at the time was on a regular run between Wellington city and the suburb of Seatoun. April 16th 2017 was a clear, calm day. Although the ferry was carrying the general navigational chart of Wellington harbour, it did not have the detailed chart required by the Maritime Rules. That chart would have shown the captain that there was a sudden shallowing of the water, and presence of rocks, 70 metres from shore.

The weed that would have indicated a rock near the surface would ordinarily be visible to vessels travelling in that area at the correct speed of five knots.

During the investigation it was discovered that East by West skippers regularly breached Maritime Rules by travelling at excessive speeds close to land.

West Company Ltd was fined NZ$280,000 for the grounding and NZ$100,000 for travelling at excessive speeds near land. The skipper of the ferry had already pleaded guilty to operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to other persons and had been fined NZ$1,688 in November 2018.