Rena captain and navigation officer: 7 months jail

By APNZ - Staff Reporters

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UPDATED: 5.43pm:

The captain and navigation officer of container ship Rena have each been jailed for seven months.

Mauro Balomaga, the captain of the container ship, and Leonil Relon also lost their name suppression when they appeared in the Tauranga District Court today for sentencing.

Both the captain and navigation officer pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to persons or property.

Tauranga District Court heard a summary of facts this morning. Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said the crew made a catalogue of errors while racing to the Port of Tauranga.

He said the ship cut corners and sailed hazardously close to other landmarks such as Bull Rocks and Arial Rocks and the captain and navigational officer tried to cover up their faults.

Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said there were "substantial deviations'' from the approved passage plan without just cause.

Most seriously, he also said that Balomaga instructed Relon to later plot a false chart position at 2am on October 5 - 15 minutes before the Rena ran aground - so that it gave the appearance of the Rena passing clear of the Astrolabe Reef.

When interviewed on October 11, neither man mentioned falsifying the charts.

Balomaga also admitted a charge under the Resource Management Act of being the master of a ship from which harmful substances or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area, and also pleaded guilty to four charges under the Crimes Act of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Relon also pleaded guilty to three similar charges, which relate to altering ship documents after the grounding, and a charge under the Resource Management Act relating to the discharge of harmful substances and/or contaminants.

Each charge under the Crimes Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

COSTAMARE INC. COMPANY STATEMENT 

"The Rena owners acknowledge the sentence imposed on the Captain and Navigation Officer of MV Rena by the District Court in Tauranga today for the events surrounding the ship's grounding on 5 October last year.

"We will continue to meet our responsibilities, as their employer, to ensure their welfare and that of their families, as they complete their sentences.

"The Rena owners and our insurers continue to be closely involved in managing the response to the grounding, especially through the activities of our salvage and recovery teams (Svitzer & Smit and Braemar Howells). There are many complex legal, environmental and community issues still to be resolved from the grounding and we are committed to working with all affected parties to achieve a satisfactory conclusion."

 

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Rena captain and navigation officer's sentencing:

Captain Mauro Arieves Balomaga, 44:

For:

* operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk (section 65(1)(a) Maritime Transport Act 1994 -

Seven months prison to be served concurrently

For:

* perverting the course of justice - (section 117(e) Crimes Act 1961)

(four charges)

.SEVEN MONTHS PRISON to be served concurrently

For:

* being the master of a ship from which harmful substances and/or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area (sections 338(1B) and 15(B) Resource Management Act 1994 -

NO SENTENCE

Navigation Officer Leonil Relon, 37:

For:

operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk (section 65(1)(a) Maritime Transport Act 1994 -

.SEVEN MONTHS PRISON to be served concurrently

For:

perverting the course of justice - (section 117(e) Crimes Act 1961)

(three charges)

.SEVEN MONTHS PRISON to be served concurrently

For:

being a person responsible for the navigation of a ship from which harmful substances and/or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area (sections 338(1B) and 15(B) Resource Management Act 1994 -

NO SENTENCE

UPDATED: 11.55am:

The captain of the Rena was just 2.6 nautical miles from the Astrolabe Reef when he first saw it on the radar - but assumed it was a small vessel or radar clutter.

Tauranga District Court heard a summary of facts this morning as the stricken container ship's captain and navigational officer await sentencing.

Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said the crew made a catalogue of errors while racing to the Port of Tauranga. The ship cut corners and sailed hazardously close to other landmarks such as Bull Rocks and Arial Rocks and the captain and navigational officer tried to cover up their faults.

Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said there were "substantial deviations" from the approved passage plan without just cause.

Most seriously, he also said that the captain instructed the navigational officer to later plot a false chart position at 2am on October 5 - 15 minutes before the Rena ran aground - so that it gave the appearance of the Rena passing clear of the Astrolabe Reef.

When interviewed on October 11, neither man mentioned falsifying the charts.

The captain admitted when re-interviewed the following month that he intended to mislead investigating authorities and to cover up what he perceived to be the navigational officer's shortcomings.

Both the captain and navigation officer have pleaded guilty to a charge under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act in relation to operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to persons or property.

The captain has also admitted a charge under the Resource Management Act of being the master of a ship from which harmful substances or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area, and also to four charges under the Crimes Act of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The navigation officer has also pleaded guilty to three similar charges, which relate to altering ship documents after the grounding, and a charge under the Resource Management Act relating to the discharge of harmful substances and/or contaminants.

Each charge under the Crimes Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, the Maritime Transport Act charges have a maximum fine of $10,000 or 12 months in prison and the Resource Management Act charges carry a maximum $300,000 fine or two years in prison and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.

The men are expected to be sentenced this afternoon.

The Rena's owners, Daina Shipping Company, who are also facing prosecution under the Resource Management Act, were also called but the matter was adjourned to July 18, with no plea entered.

Bad weather and stormy seas have gradually smashed Rena to pieces since it ran aground on October 5 last year.

 

 

UPDATED: 11.00am:

The captain and navigation officer of container ship Rena will today be sentenced in Tauranga District Court  for their role in New Zealand's worst environmental maritime disaster. Their names and identities are currently still supressed.

The ship struck the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty last October, spewing cargo and oil along the coastline.

Both the captain and navigation officer have pleaded guilty to a charge under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act in relation to operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to persons or property.

The captain has also admitted a charge under the Resource Management Act of being the master of a ship from which harmful substances or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area, and also to four charges under the Crimes Act of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The navigation officer has also pleaded guilty to three similar charges, which relate to altering ship documents after the grounding.

He is yet to answer a charge under the Resource Management Act relating to the discharge of harmful substances and/or contaminants. His lawyer has confirmed the officer intends to plead guilty.

Both men would appear in Tauranga District Court this morning.

Each charge under the Crimes Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, the Maritime Transport Act charges have a maximum fine of $10,000 or 12 months in prison and the Resource Management Act charges carry a maximum $300,000 fine or two years in prison and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.

Bad weather and stormy seas have gradually smashed Rena to pieces since it ran aground on October 5 last year.

 

 

The captain and navigation officer of container ship Rena have each been jailed for seven months. - More to come

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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