Ports of Auckland has been fined and ordered to pay reparations totaling just over $60,000 after an employee fell off an unguarded edge of a container ship's hatch lid.

The company has been fined $49,980 and will pay $12,000 in reparations after a stevedore was badly injured while working aboard a container ship, Spirit of Independence, in October 2014.

The employee was observing a foreman and another co-worker de-lash a container, when he fell off the hatch lid. The man fell almost 3m to the deck below. He was rendered unconscious and also suffered a fractured elbow.

Maritime New Zealand laid a charge against the company for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees at work. Ports of Auckland Ltd pleaded guilty and was handed the sentence in the Auckland District Court on Friday.


General manager for maritime compliance, Harry Hawthorn, said the sentence outcome highlighted the need to ensure that not only were safety measures put in place, but that they were communicated properly to workers.

The hatch lid on which the man had been standing on before he fell was 1.7m wide and was used to access containers. Ladders on board were designed for people of "small stature'' and not usually used by stevedores, Maritime NZ said.

"[Ports of Auckland] knew that stevedores frequently used the easier, faster option of walking across the hatch lid rather than using the ladders. But the lack of safety rails on the hatch was not identified at the ship's specific safety briefing for stevedores."

Mr Hawthorn said a policy that stevedores were to stay at least 1.4m away from the edges, where a fall could occur, was not widely known by workers and there was no requirement of this laid out in any training documents.

"Effective communication of the requirement to stay at least 1.4m from the edge where there is a falling hazard may have reduced the likelihood of the stevedore falling.''