The lives of 21 crew were put at risk in a potential Rena-type disaster off New Plymouth when a large cargo vessel took on water after running aground on a reef last month.
The incident has prompted a strong message from Maritime New Zealand.
"This incident posed a potential threat to the 21 crew and could have had a serious impact on the environment, and yet no effort was made for some days to notify Maritime New Zealand," MNZ director Keith Manch said yesterday.
"That is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," he said.
The potential crisis was revealed in documents before the New Plymouth District Court where the ship's captain pleaded guilty to failing to inform MNZ that his vessel, the 77 metre Lake Triview, sustained multiple holes in its hull after getting stuck on the reef off New Plymouth on the night of Saturday, May 24.
The Lake Triview first dragged its anchor that night, drifting close to shore. It grounded on the reef off Waiwhakaiho.
It was holed multiple times and took on water after managing to use its engines to propel its way free.
When inspected in port the Lake Triview was found to have 12 holes in its hull.
The captain, Rolando Legaspi, a 63-year-old Filipino national, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to failing to notify MNZ of the grounding of the vessel. Legaspi did not appear in court for sentencing yesterday morning, instead asking to be represented by his lawyer Andrew Laurenson.
Community magistrate Robyn Paterson fined Legaspi $2000 with court costs of $130 after he was given credit for his early guilty plea and for finally revealing the full story of what happened during an interview with maritime inspectors.
The maximum penalty for an individual is $5000.
Manch said the sentence should send a strong message to those responsible for vessels operating around New Zealand.
Details of the grounding were not received by MNZ until late in the evening of May 28, he said.
"It is essential that Maritime New Zealand is notified of incidents as soon as possible to ensure measures are taken immediately to protect human life and the environment," Manch said.
In court, MNZ prosecutor Shane Elliott, of Auckland, said the incident, which occurred in rough seas, was viewed as serious.
The captain knew water was leaking into the hull but failed to notify MNZ as he was required to do under the Maritime Safety Act.
Notifying any such incident was of paramount importance because it enabled authorities to respond quickly and appropriately to avoid any risk, such as occurred with the Rena, he said.
Court documents show the captain has had his master's ticket since 1980. The Singapore-flagged vessel was carrying a part-cargo of soya meal to be offloaded at Port Taranaki. It is owned by Tri View Shipping Ltd.
MNZ said the vessel would be detained at Port Taranaki pending arrangements for repair of the damage.
TIMELINE LAKE TRIVIEW GROUNDING
May 24: 11am. Lake Triview anchors about 2.1 nautical miles (3.9 kilometres) off Port Taranaki. It is carrying a partial load of soya meal for Port Taranaki. Vessel has draught of 7 metres.
May 24: 5.30pm. Anchor drags and vessel moves slowly towards shore.
May 24: 8pm. Captain orders anchor raised. Mechanical failure prevents this. Captain asks Port Taranaki to put two tugs on standby. These are not deployed.
May 24: 9.38pm. Vessel runs aground on a rocky reef in about 7m of water. Anchor is successfully retrieved. Vessel remains grounded on reef for about 5 minutes. Freed using its own engines. Port Taranaki advises Maritime New Zealand the vessel's anchor dragged.
May 26: MNZ seeks details. MNZ is not told of the grounding.
May 27: Vessel berths. Inspection by divers identifies 12 breaches of the ballast tanks as a result of grounding. No oil spill detected.
June 12: Vessel still detained at Port Taranaki pending arrangements for repair of the damage.
- Taranaki Daily News
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