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The skipper of a boat which ran aground off Dorset has been fined £2000.
At a hearing on Friday July 22nd at Bournemouth Magistrates, the Master of a passenger vessel pleaded guilty to two offences brought under safety and officer certification legislation. He was fined £2,000 plus costs of £1,000.
On the 7th August 2010 the passenger vessel Solent Scene was enroute from Poole to Swanage. As part of the trip the vessel stopped off Old Harry Rocks (Handfast Point) to allow a funeral party to scatter ashes. The Master of Solent Scene, Mr Antony Wilkinson stopped the vessel alongside some fishing marks in order to have a reference point so as to monitor the vessel’s position.
He had assigned a member of crew to monitor the funeral party which was scattering the ashes over the stern of the Solent Scene from the main deck. However Mr Wilkinson decided to check out the progress of the ceremony himself. He did this by leaving the wheelhouse and going to the after end of the top deck and looking over the stern. How long Mr Wilkinson was there is uncertain but the next thing he realised was that the vessel had grounded. An attempt to get the Solent Scene off the rocks using the vessel’s engines failed.
The passengers and crew were safely evacuated by the Poole RNLI Lifeboat. The Solent Scene was successfully towed off the rocks by the Lifeboat and towed safely into Poole.
Subsequent investigation showed that the Boat Masters Licence (BML) of Mr Wilkinson was not valid for the area in which the Solent Scene was operating. It also showed Mr Wilkinson had failed to comply with Company Instructions by being so close to the shore.
In passing sentence the Magistrates said: 'You have plied your trade for many years and should have known better. It was sheer luck it was not more serious than it was.'
Mr Richard Pellew, Area Operation Manager (Surveys and Inspections) based at the Southampton Marine Office stated:
"This case provides a salutary lesson to all seafarers in that being distracted from monitoring the vessel’s safety can lead to a distress situation.
It also sends a reminder to all operators of small passenger vessels to ensure that their Masters and crew are properly qualified for the areas in which they operate.”