Yachties 'should have known better'

By Genevieve Helliwell


Authorities have blasted the actions of a group of local yachties after a cargo ship had to take evasive action to avoid them.

However, the commodore of Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club says the incident was "not a big issue".

Photos show eight yachts in the path of the Zhe Hai 505 cargo ship, which was carrying nearly 25,000 tonnes of fertiliser, as it entered Tauranga Harbour. The 179m ship was forced to make a wide turn through the channel to avoid a collision with the yachts.

The yachts were part of a group of 10 boats competing in a race organised by the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club on Sunday.

The Tauranga Harbour Master is considering taking action against the eight skippers after a complaint was laid by the ship's pilot.

Harbour Master Jennifer Roberts said the yachties "should have known better" and were in breach of the Bay of Plenty Regional Navigational Safety Bylaw 2010.

"The ship made numerous sound signals - five short and one long blast on its horn - which means 'I am unclear about your intentions' but the yachts didn't get out of its way."

"The ship had to take evasive action. It's a big deal for the ship and it shouldn't have had to have done that," she said.

Captain Roberts was disappointed the yachts didn't turn on their engines and move out of the way of the ship, despite race rules allowing them to. She was considering issuing the eight skippers with a $200 infringement fee.

The Bylaw (Bay of Plenty Regional Navigational Safety Bylaw 2010) states it is the duty of the master of the vessel, under 500 gross tonnes in the Tauranga Harbour area, to not allow the vessel to impede on the navigation of a vessel 500 gross tonnes or over.

Captain Roberts said the Tauranga skippers were aware of the rule as she had spoken to them about it numerous times.

"But they didn't follow [it] on this occasion," she said.

The incident was recorded on camera on board the cargo ship and recorded by other electronic equipment, which Captain Roberts later viewed.

She spoke with the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club Commodore, Gary Smith, who was racing in Sunday's race. His yacht, Sniper, was not one of the eight under investigation.

Mr Smith said while he would have preferred it if Sunday's incident did not happen, it was no big deal.

"The boats get close all the time, whenever we are racing out through the channel. He tooted the horn a couple of times. We moved, he went through, no big issue. It's not just the yachts he tooted at. It's the fishermen and others as well."

However, yachts that were in the path of the ship struggled to remove themselves in enough time, due to a lack of wind in their sails, Mr Smith said.

"Normally, 99 per cent of the time we move as soon as we can."

Yachties typically kept their eyes on the water for any other vessels and were usually quick to manoeuvre out of the way of large ships, Mr Smith said.

Captain Roberts said members of the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club were generally good and it wasn't often the boats got in the way of larger vessels.

"With more and larger vessels coming into the Harbour [as a result of the Port of Tauranga wharf extension] this is a warning for all boaties to be careful and aware that everyone inside the Tauranga Harbour pilotage area has to give way to ships over 500 tonnes, and this includes people anchored and fishing in the channel."

with Kiri Gillespie

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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