Claims boat unseaworthy absurd: skipper

Kotuku owner-skipper John Edminstin has lashed out at a Transport Accident Investigation Commission report into the sinking of his fishing boat.

Speaking from the front door of his Bluff home yesterday, Mr Edminstin said the report contained inaccuracies and ‘‘lies''.

He described it as ‘‘a pile of . . . riddles''.

And in a statement through his lawyer, Mr Edminstin said those who knew the boat ‘‘believe that the Kotuku was a seaworthy vessel at the time of the accident''.

Mr Edminstin said Kotuku would not have stayed afloat for several hours after it capsized if the hull was as bad as the report suggested.

He believed damage done while salvaging the boat from the bottom of Foveaux Strait was the reason for the hull's poor condition when inspected after the sinking.

Mr Edminstin was supported by the family of his friend Ian Hayward, who died following the capsize.

In a statement from Melbourne, widow Judy Hayward said the report's suggestion Kotuku was unseaworthy was ‘‘absurd'' and her family had faith in Mr Edminstin.

‘‘He did all he could to support the survivors and for this we will be truly thankful,'' Mrs Hayward said in the statement.

Mr Hayward would never have gone on the trip if he had thought the boat was unseaworthy, she said.

The family was aware Kotuku's safe ship management (SSM) certificate was current. The certificate was issued three months before the sinking. The commission considered it should not have been issued.

The company which issued the certificate, SGS Marine and Industrial, did not return calls yesterday.

However, an employee in Invercargill told the ODT the commission's report was ‘‘only the opinion of people who are unqualified . . .''

Commission investigator Captain Doug Monks told a press conference in Invercargill yesterday it would be obvious to a maritime surveyor that Kotuku's closed freeing ports breached regulations, but at the time they were similar to the ports of half the inshore fishing boats.

Maritime New Zealand director Catherine Taylor said ‘‘elements'' of its SSM system needed improving and all recommendations made by the commission were being adopted.

Inspections, audits and spot checks were being stepped up, ‘‘along with raising professional standards of surveyors through increased training and support''.

After the sinking, Maritime NZ issued bulletins about the importance of ensuring life-raft cradles released properly and of keeping vessel-freeing ports clear to allow water to drain off the deck.

The commission considered a major contributing factor to the capsize was water trapped on deck because the boat's ports were blocked.

Maritime NZ had also held compulsory training seminars for surveyors.

Asked if the Foveaux Strait fishing community would take notice of his report, Capt Monks said they did not have a choice.

‘‘With the tightening of the survey system, I think they'll have to take notice of it,'' Capt Monks said.

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