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Sentence Handed Down For Watchkeeping Failings

A failure to keep watch nearly had disastrous results on the ocean off the Bay of Plenty coast.

Mike Te Pou was the Skipper of the near 20 metre fishing vessel, FV Commission on July 2021, when it collided with a 266m container ship, the Kota Lembah.

This week Mr Te Pou was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court under the Maritime Transport for Operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to any other person or to any property.

On the night of the incident, the FV Commission had been at sea for a week, and as well as the skipper, Te Pou, it also had two crew members and an MPI observer on board.

While his crew was setting out longlines for fishing, Mr Te Pou was manning the wheelhouse. At about 3.15 am, he observed the Kota Lembah on his radar.

Investigations Manager, Pete Dwen says despite seeing the vessel on the radar, he went out the back to help his crew.

"He remained away from the wheelhouse for 40 minutes. Didn’t check on the location of the Kota Lembah and at 3.55 am; the two vessels collided.

"This was a collision a long way off the coast of New Zealand, and was completely avoidable.

"While no one was injured, this had the potential to be a serious event, or even throw multiple people into the water," Pete Dwen says.

Having someone keeping watch is one of the best ways to keep your vessel, those on it and others on the water safe.

"We have prosecuted numerous cases this year for watchkeeping failures, and it is frustrating we are continuing to see these incidents arise.

"Vessels should always ensure someone is always on watch in that role," Pete Dwen says.

It is acknowledged that Kota Lembah had contributed to the incident as it had failed to give way as required by the Maritime Rules and it did not alter their course either to avoid a collision.

Editor’s note:

At sentencing Mr Te Pou was fined $1625.

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