Skip­per keeps li­cence af­ter reef dam­aged

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

A VES­SEL ground­ing which caused a 12m scar along a pro­tected coral reef in the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park all came down to a “rookie er­ror”.

The dam­age oc­curred on Nara In­let, near Hook Is­land as the com­mer­cial Ice­berg ves­sel ran aground on a vul­ner­a­ble sec­tion of hard and soft coral and op­er­a­tor made at­tempts to move it.

The com­mon­wealth pros­e­cu­tion stated that the “Safety Man­age­ment Sys­tem Man­ual” ad­vised Nara In­let reefs pro­trude un­usu­ally, mak­ing it a “high risk” lo­ca­tion for boat ground­ings.

Shortly af­ter the dam­age oc­curred, the skip­per on board the ship im­me­di­ately re­ported the in­ci­dent to Mar­itime Safety Queens­land and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted which re­vealed the scar dam­age to the reef.

It is not known whether the reef has made a full re­cov­ery from the in­ci­dent.

The skip­per pleaded guilty to caus­ing dam­age within a pro­tected marine park, which car­ries a max­i­mum penalty of $180,000.

He said the dam­age was not a re­sult of in­ex­pe­ri­ence, but came down to an hon­est mis­take.

“I’ve taken thou­sands of peo­ple around the Whitsundays, this was a rookie er­ror,” he said.

When asked what im­pact los­ing his marine li­cence would have on the skip­per, he replied it would be “ex­tremely detri­men­tal”.

“If I lose my ticket I be­come un­em­ployed and have no other re­course,” he said.

“I don’t have a driv­ers li­cence at the mo­ment and can’t do any other work... it is my liveli­hood.”

Mag­is­trate Si­mon Young said while the in­ci­dent was not de­lib­er­ate, the skip­per was lucky he didn’t cause “more se­ri­ous dam­age”.

“Ab­so­lute care needs to be taken when you are charged with a ves­sel with tourists on board in an area of such sig­nif­i­cance to the lo­cal econ­omy and the world ecol­ogy,” he said.

Mag­is­trate Young told the skip­per a $5000-6000 fine would nor­mally be ap­pro­pri­ate, but mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors, in­clud­ing his lim­ited fi­nan­cial means would re­duce the penalty.

Richard Craig Ren­ton, 37 from Can­non­vale was fined $2500 and re­tained his marine li­cence.

PHOTO: CHRIS MCLEN­NAN

GROUNDED: Hook Is­land look­ing down on Nara In­let.

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