Whit­sun­day char­ter boat skip­per fined

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

A WHIT­SUN­DAY char­ter boat skip­per with almost 40 years ex­pe­ri­ence, has been fined $1800 for fail­ing to safely op­er­ate his ship.

Max Wil­liam Freck­le­ton ap­peared in the Proser­pine Mag­is­trate’s Court on Mon­day and pleaded guilty to the charge.

The court heard that on Jan­uary 16, 2012, Freck­le­ton was the master of the Whit­sun­day char­ter boat Ana­conda III.

The ves­sel was moored at Bait Reef where the then 69-year-old cap­tain had planned to de­part at 6am, due to the fore­cast for in­clement weather of 20-25 knot winds.

Bar­ris­ter for Queens­land Trans­port (TMR), Isaac Mun­sie, said when the time came, Freck­le­ton de­cided to de­lay his de­par­ture for another hour, to see if the weather would im­prove.

He said Freck­le­ton felt pres­sured by the timetable of the trip and at 7am the crew were in­structed to drop the moor­ing lines.

Mr Mun­sie in­di­cated there was some dif­fi­culty with this, and that Freck­le­ton was left in the sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing to un­der­take a com­pli­cated ma­noeu­vre to exit the reef.

The court was told this was made more dif­fi­cult by the loss of a lat­eral marker, de­stroyed by Cy­clone Ului in 2010, and only re­placed with a tem­po­rary float.

Mr Mun­sie said Freck­le­ton lost sight of the float and ran the boat onto the reef, re­sult­ing in a $52,111 re­pair bill.

He said Freck­le­ton told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he didn’t think the com­pass was work­ing prop­erly at the time, but didn’t use a GPS.

De­spite the fact the boat was tak­ing on wa­ter, Freck­le­ton man­aged to move it to the Whit­sun­day is­lands where pas­sen­gers could safely be trans­ferred to another ship – a fact that de­fence solic­i­tor Sher­rie Meade raised in his favour.

Ms Meade pro­duced photographs to il­lus­trate the dif­fi­culty Freck­le­ton had in see­ing the limited nav­i­ga­tional aids through the wind and the rain.

Claim­ing a GPS and com­pass would not have helped him in the cir­cum­stances, she also raised ques­tions about the ex­tent of the dam­age sus­tained.

“It’s not un­usual for boats to go aground on the reef – it hap­pens,” she said, point­ing out that on most oc­ca­sions, this sim­ply re­sulted in “scratches” to the hull.

“[But] this seemed to have hit some­thing that was a lot more solid.”

Ms Meade’s ex­pla­na­tion for this was that Freck­le­ton may have hit sub­merged re­mains of the lat­eral marker.

She said the now 71-year-old was “a very, very ex­pe­ri­enced cap­tain” hav­ing skip­pered cargo ships to PNG, the Solomon Is­lands and Sin­ga­pore.

“This is a man who’s used to co­ral [and] used to reefs,” she said.

Fi­nally Ms Meade pro­vided a let­ter from the cur­rent owner of the Ana­conda III, de­scrib­ing Freck­le­ton as a tal­ented cap­tain.

“And he would put him back on a boat and would have no qualms about it,” she said.

Mag­is­trate Haydn St­jern­qvist con­ceded there were is­sues with vis­i­bil­ity and the con­straints of the ma­noeu­vre that had to be per­formed.

“But it all amounts to any­one rea­son­ably con­clud­ing that the cor­rect decision would have been to wait it out for bet­ter weather,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to the $1800 fine, Freck­le­ton was charged $84.50 in court costs but no con­vic­tion was recorded against him for the of­fence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.