Speed cited in Torea report

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 12:43 09/01/2014

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@devlincolle: An investigation into what caused the stricken Torea fishing vessel to take on water has found a collision with a rock could have been prevented if the skipper was going at a slower speed and has also recommended skippers ensure the maximum number of passengers on a vessel is never exceeded.

On 24 August 2012, the passenger fishing charter vessel Torea, with 24 passengers and 3 crew members on board, was fishing  in the Foveaux Strait area - close to Seal Rocks, off Ruapuke Island.

A report by The Transport Accident Investigation Commission says the vessel was only permitted to carry 20 passengers and struck an uncharted rock as the skipper was increasing speed to move to another area.

The report found the collision with the rock was a risk associated with its type of fishing, which had been reasonably mitigated by the skipper.

In this case, the Commission concluded the collision could possibly have been prevented had the skipper remained at a slower speed until clear of the shallow area, which was known for the existence of uncharted rocks.

The skipper was unaware that he had more than 20 passengers on board, the report says.

The Torea's hull was damaged in the collision and water began entering the main cabin. The skipper made a distress radio call, then deliberately beached the vessel on nearby Ruapuke Island to prevent it sinking.

The rescue response by nearby fishing vessels, the Bluff Coastguard and the Bluff Harbour pilot launch was rapid and well-co-ordinated and all passengers were taken off the Torea without injury, the report says.

In its report the Commission says there are key lessons to learn from inquiry: Skippers must know how many persons they have on board and ensure that the maximum permitted number of passengers is never exceeded.

It was is risky operating small craft in shallow areas that have not been fully surveyed, so skippers must proceed with the utmost caution at minimal speed to avoid colliding with uncharted dangers.

The fact that the Torea was carrying four more than the maximum permissible number of passengers was a safety issue, even though the Torea was carrying sufficient lifesaving equipment for the additional passengers on board. 

The operator has since addressed this safety issue, so the Commission has made no new recommendations

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