Hefty fine for operators of ship stranded on Farnes

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

The operators of the Danio, which was grounded on the Farne Islands last year, have been ordered to pay more than £70,000 for two breaches of shipping regulations.

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 were insufficient and this morning, the company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,796.77, along with a victim surcharge of £120.

It relates to an incident in March last year when the Danio ran aground near the Little Harcar Rock in the Farne Islands in the early hours of the morning.

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.

Passing sentence today, Judge Brian Forster said: “It is clear to me the shocking failure to comply with regulations led the vessel to sail on automatically. The potential for disaster was obvious, as it sailed on silently at night, with no look-out, with the threat to other vessels at sea.”

After the sentencing, Alan Thomson, surveyor in charge at the MCA’s Tyne marine office, said: “It was very fortunate that the damage to the MV Danio was relatively small and that there were no injuries or deaths. It is also fortunate that the effects on such an environmentally sensitive area as the Farne Islands were minimal. The requirement to keep a good lookout is set out in UK, national and international legislation. All owners and operators are reminded to ensure that their vessels are being operated and manned correctly.”