The operators of the Danio, which was grounded on the Farne Islands last year, appeared in court this week charged with two breaches of shipping regulations.
On Monday, solicitor Tony Cornberg entered two guilty pleas on behalf of operational management company, Cuxship Management GMBH, of Cuxhaven, Germany, at Mid and South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court, to charges of failing to maintain a proper look-out and failing to meet the requirements regarding the safety-management system.
The case will be dealt with at Newcastle Crown Court after magistrates decided that their powers of sentencing were insufficient.
Graham Duff, prosecuting for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), told the court that the chief officer of the vessel took over the watch at midnight before putting in some eye-drops around 3am and falling asleep.
The ship then ‘proceeded blind’ for around 90 minutes before hitting the Farne Islands.
The regulations require that the officer of the watch is backed up by a look-out, both of whom have to be qualified.
“It appears this vessel sailed as a matter of course without a look-out,” said Mr Duff.
The second charge relates to hours of work; the chief officer who was on watch at the time hadn’t had sufficient watch.
Mr Duff added: “There wasn’t sufficient watch and there was a tired officer of the watch. It was an accident waiting to happen, and it did.
“Clearly the situation that existed on that vessel led directly to that grounding and one can’t always say that.”
Mr Cornberg tried to persuade the magistrates that their powers were adequate as the company was already facing salvage costs, likely to be tens of thousands of pounds and repair costs, likely to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He also pointed out that there was no loss of life or injury nor any environmental impact.
But Mr Duff said: “It could have been awful.”
The case was adjourned to Monday, March 3, for sentencing.