Sentencing of operators of ship stranded on Farnes adjourned

The Danio grounded at the Farne Islands. Picture by Seahouses Lifeboat Station.
The Danio grounded at the Farne Islands. Picture by Seahouses Lifeboat Station.

The operators of the Danio, which was grounded on the Farne Islands last year, were due to be sentenced today for two breaches of shipping regulations, but the case was adjourned due to a lack of financial details.

In January, operational management company, Cuxship Management GMBH, of Cuxhaven, Germany, pleaded guilty 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 was sent to Newcastle Crown Court after magistrates decided that their powers of sentencing – an unlimited fine can be imposed for the offences – were insufficient.

But today, Judge Moreland was concerned that she did not have enough information relating to the means of the company and ordered that three years’ of accounts be served by Friday, March 21, with sentencing to take place a week later on Friday, March 28.

The case relates to the incident which took place in March last year.

On Saturday, March 16, the Danio made a distress call in the early hours of the morning after running aground near the Little Harcar rock. It was carrying timber from Perth to Antwerp when it ran into the rocks.

The vessel, which was stranded for 13 days, was salvaged on the high tide in the early hours of Thursday, March 28, after delays due to tide and weather conditions.

At the initial hearing in January, 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 rest. 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.”

It was pointed out, by Tony Cornberg, defending, that there was no loss of life or injury nor any environmental impact, but Mr Duff said: “It could have been awful.”