French cruise company Compagnie du Ponant and the cruise ship ‘L’Austral’s’ Master have been fined a total of NZ$100,000 for endangering human life and entering a prohibited zone.
The fine followed an incident in the remote New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands.
Compagnie du Ponant received a fine of NZ$70,000, while Capt Regis Daumesnil, a French citizen, was fined NZ$30,000 in the Wellington District Court.
They had pleaded guilty to charges following the 9th January, 2017 grounding of the ‘L’Austral’ on an uncharted rock at the Snares Islands.
Both Maritime NZ and the Department of Conservation (DOC) brought charges against Capt Daumesnil, with DOC also prosecuting the company.
Charges were filed against Capt Daumesnil under the New Zealand Maritime Transport Act 1994 for causing unnecessary danger or risk to the people on board, and against both Capt Daumesnil and the company under the Resource Management Act 1991 for entering a 300 m exclusion zone around the Islands.
As a result of the grounding the vessel’s hull was punctured in three places. Rather than return to Bluff, the nearest port, Capt Daumesnil made the decision to continue on the cruise schedule to the Auckland Islands, a further 285 km south. There were 356 passengers and crew on board.
“His ship grounded, was holed and everyone on board was endangered. Capt Daumesnil then made the situation worse by sailing further away, from any possible help, should it have been needed,” Mike Vredenburg, Maritime NZ Southern Regional Compliance Manager, said.
According to the Maritime NZ, Capt Daumesnil had an inadequate plan for sailing around North East Island, no plan at all for drifting close to shore while recovering boats, did not identify areas of danger, and did not monitor that the ship remained in safe water.
The Court ordered that 90% of the fine be awarded to DOC, on behalf of the Minister of Conservation, as the local authority for the sub-Antarctic Islands. DOC intends to use the funds towards planning for its Auckland Islands pest eradication project.