Two senior officers of a log carrier ship that became stranded near the entrance to Tauranga Harbour after engine failures have each been fined more than $3000.
Liang Guang Hong, 40, and Chameekaraa Prasad Nanayakkara, 42, appeared in the Tauranga District Court before Judge John Macdonald yesterday for sentencing on breaching of the Maritime Transport Act.
At an earlier court appearance, the men admitted they operated, maintained or serviced a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to other persons or property.
This included the other crew on board the Singapore-registered log carrier MV Funing, which moored at the Port of Tauranga on July 5 with about 20 crew.
Hong had admitted he knew there had been an issue with the main engine which triggered the engine alarm during pre-departure testing but failed to notify the Port of Tauranga pilot.
Nanayakkara admitted his failure to retest the main engine to ensure it was operating on all five cylinders after attending to a fuel piston error, prior to the ship's departure.
The stern of the vessel became stranded after coming into contact with a sand bar and the ship had to be towed into deeper water and then into a safer anchorage
Ella Collis, the lawyer for Maritime New Zealand, submitted a fine starting at $6000 to $7000 was appropriate given the actions of the two officers were reckless and deliberate.
Collis said Hong was ultimately responsible for what happened on the ship and he should have ordered his chief engineer to retest the engine before departing Tauranga.
The officers' lawyer Peter Crombie argued his clients' failures were acts of carelessness rather than deliberate acts and a fine starting at $5000 was more appropriate.
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He said Hong, from China, had "made a mistake" after his chief officer Nanayakkara, from Sri Lanka, told him it was okay to leave port.
"It was certainly an error of judgement and he [Hong] was let down by his chief engineer."
Crombie said it was Nanayakkara's understanding that if the piston misfired again the ship could be operated on four cylinders and the misfire would have no bearing on the ship's safety as it left the harbour.
Both men were genuinely remorseful for their "errors in judgement," he said.
Crombie also urged Judge Macdonald to take into account the damage to the two officers' previously unblemished reputations and said their future careers were also now uncertain.
He also said the defendants had been away from their families for several months and had fully co-operated with Maritime New Zealand during the investigation and prosecution.
Judge Macdonald said he accepted Hong's failures did not go beyond carelessness but characterised Nananyakkara's actions as more serious.
"Maybe you were overly optimistic when you made the decision to tell the master it was safe to depart but there was at least an element of recklessness in what you did... But fortunately, the potential for harm did not come to much in the end, " he said.
Judge Macdonald fined both men $3250 plus $130 court costs after taking into account their remorse, co-operation, lack of prior convictions and impact on their reputations.