Skipper keeps licence after reef damaged
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.
GROUNDED: Hook Island looking down on Nara Inlet.