The sinking of a grossly overloaded fishing boat, Victory II, has led to New Zealand fishing company Nino’s Limited, its sole director and the vessel’s master being fined a total of NZ$449,500 ($284,426).
Additionally, the company has been ordered to pay NZ$64,800 ($41,003) in reparation to the crew for emotional harm and unpaid wages.
Maritime NZ Central Region Compliance Manager Michael-Paul Abbott said Victory II should have carried no more than five tonnes of fish. Instead, she was loaded with at least 28 tonnes when she sank near Kaik?ura on 10 June 2017.
“That is like putting 20 medium-sized cars onto a small fishing boat,” Abbott said. “Overloading sinks ships. The boat sank in only two minutes. The four men onboard were very fortunate to be rescued. This trip could have ended in tragedy, and the lives of the crew were unnecessarily put in danger.
“It is also important people understand that company officials, not only the skipper, are responsible for the safety of all the people on board a ship or a boat.”
Maritime NZ investigated the sinking and prosecuted the company and its director, Antonio Basile, and the vessel’s master, Shane McCauley. They pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, and the company also pleaded guilty to two further charges under the Maritime Transport Act. They were sentenced in the Wellington District Court last week.
The investigation found that for a year before Victory II sank the vessel had been consistently overloaded, with its smallest catch being 5.584 tonnes and its largest 27 tonnes.
Both Basile and McCauley told Maritime NZ they did not know the vessel’s load capacity was five tonnes, and only Basile has seen the vessel’s stability book. The investigation also found that Nino’s had stopped paying wages to two of Victory II’s crew after the sinking. An employer must pay seafarers’ wages for two months after a vessel sinks or until they have new employment, whichever occurs first.
Summary of the sinking
On June 7, 2017 the Victory II left Wellington to fish off the coast of the South Island, near Kaik?ura. The master and three crew were on board.
Victory II fished on June 8-10, 2017 then began her return to Wellington. The weather and sea conditions were good. However, overloading made the vessel so low in the water that her back deck flooded and she began to sink.
At 11.27am the master radioed a distress call and the crew launched a life raft. The vessel sank so quickly that the four men did not have enough time to put on their life jackets.
Helicopters were mobilized, but the four men were rescued by a local fisherman who had launched his boat on hearing the distress call.