Cruise company to pay costs

Photo: Fiordland Expeditions
Photo: Fiordland Expeditions
A passenger was burned by water from a hot urn after a boat hit rocks while the skipper was away from the bridge, filleting fish.

Fiordland Expedition Ltd (FEL) was yesterday sentenced in the Invercargill District Court by Judge Russell Walker, on one charge of exposing an individual to risk of harm or illness, following a prosecution by Maritime New Zealand.

The business operates in Doubtful Sound, offering overnight cruises and charters on passenger vessels.

The sentencing indication notes stated on February 2, 2018, the vessel Tutoko II departed from Deep Cove with 10 passengers and three crew members on board, including the skipper Tane Kingipotiki.

After some sightseeing activities and kayaking at Precipice Cove, Mr Kingipotiki started sailing the boat in the direction of the shore, on the opposite side of the cove, which was about 1km away.

He engaged the autopilot, and left the wheelhouse, with the vessel travelling about five to seven knots. He moved to the rear of the vessel and became distracted by questions from passengers, at the same time filleting fish.

‘‘After approximately four to five minutes, one of the passengers asked who was driving the boat. Almost immediately after that the vessel struck a rocky outcrop where it became lodged,’’ the notes stated.

As a result, both the fridge and stove moved in the galley and hot water from an unsecured urn splashed on to the arm of a passenger who received a burn.

Maritime NZ prosecutor Dan Moore’s written submission stated FEL was obliged to ensure the safety of its workers and other persons and it had failed to do so.

He said the unsecured water urn created a relatively serious risk of harm to passengers and crew and, while the harm caused in this case was minor, the potential risk for something more serious was present.

It was the second time the urn had caused injury, as another incident had happened in 2017 on the same vessel, he said.

Defence lawyer Maryna Campbell submitted the actions of the skipper were contrary to both the company policy and maritime rules.

She said since the incident, the company had fixed the urn to the bench and engaged a health and safety specialist to conduct an audit of its operation, to ensure all risks were eliminated or mitigated.

In his notes, Judge Walker accepted the incident was in large part a consequence of unexpected behaviour of the skipper, and the company was now aware of the need to take into account human error.

Judge Walker convicted and ordered the business to pay $5000 towards the costs of the prosecution.

Mr Kingipotiki resigned from his position at the conclusion of the trip and had previously been ordered to pay $4000 in fines and court costs, after being charged under the Transport Act.

Judge Walker suppressed all FEL’s financial details.

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