Training blamed in grounding of navy barge VIP

Inadequate training of crew in the use of navigation systems was one of several factors that grounded a navy barge in Whangarei while returning from Waitangi Day commemorations, a court of inquiry has determined.

The court of inquiry was set up after the barge VIP ran aground as it was leaving Tutukaka Marina on February 8, after berthing there overnight following its appearance at Waitangi. The vessel hit submerged rocks between Rahomaumu Island and the mainland just south of the harbour before dawn and was towed back into the harbour by the stern, with the bow just under water.

The 14m long, 32-year-old wooden-hulled VIP was taken by road to Devonport Naval Base on February 10 and is being fully assessed by engineers to establish the full extent of the damage.

In its findings released yesterday, the court of inquiry said the incident could have been prevented.

"We've not met our high standards for operating small boats and that simply isn't good enough," said Captain Corina Bruce, commanding officer of HMNZS Philomel.

The inquiry found the incident was caused by several factors.

Apart from inadequate training of crew, it said HMNZS Philomel base standing orders for the conduct of coastal passages were out of date and led to no formal navigation plan or operational risk assessment for the voyage.

Prevailing wind and sea conditions also contributed to the VIP's grounding, the inquiry found out.

Captain Bruce said the navy had moved swiftly to comply with recommendations and that he was confident the right training and procedures had been put in place to ensure such an incident was not repeated.

HMNZS Philomel standing orders have been updated to include a comprehensive direction on the use of the VIP barge and other navy small boats and tenders, Captain Bruce said.

A training regime has been implemented which ensures all small boats' crews have the right skills to operate the installed navigational systems.

Training included the use of the Raymarine navigation system, GPS, radar and the echo sounder systems.

The Raymarine navigation system has been updated with the latest charts.

Neither alcohol nor fatigue were contributing factors.

The barge is now in operation after undertaking repair works.

Immediately after the grounding, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he wanted some hard answers about the incident, which he described as an "embarrassment" for the navy.


- Northern Advocate

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