A cruise company whose negligence led to the death of a crew member in a gas-cylinder explosion in Port Chalmers will have to wait to learn its fate in court.

The Emerald Princess – operated by the Bermudan-registered firm Princess Cruise Lines Limited – was docked at Port Otago on February 9 last year carrying 3115 passengers on a tour between Australia and New Zealand.

While docked, the vessel's crew members were tasked with checking the pressure of nitrogen cylinders - used to launch lifeboats in the event of an emergency.

Allan Alarde Navales and Bernabe Santos carried out the maintenance work on boat 24, filling the canisters to the required level.


Once it had been refilled, Navales instructed Santos to start the hydraulic system.
After a minute of operation, one of the cylinders exploded.

Navales, standing beside it, was killed.

Judge Kevin Phillips told the Dunedin District Court this morning the staff had not been trained how to do that aspect of the job.

The force of the blast caused another nitrogen container to be thrown onto the wharf.

It spun around in an area where passengers and crew were walking but no one else was injured, court documents said.

After a Maritime New Zealand investigation, Princess Cruise Lines were charged with causing a maritime product to be maintained or serviced in a manner that caused unnecessary danger or risk to other people.

An inspection of the failed cylinder on board the cruise liner found areas of corrosion, "significant wastage and pitting" which was clearly visible.

Other nitrogen canisters on board also showed evidence of heavy wear.
The cylinder that exploded had a thickness of 1.52mm in the failure area, compared to new ones that measured 6.2mm.


Princess Cruise Lines subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge and came before the court today for sentencing.

Judge Phillips heard submissions from counsel on both sides but reserved his decision as to penalty.

The charge carries a maximum fine of $100,000 but the judge may award reparation outside that.

Prosecutor Dale Lahood said Navales' family were living in poverty in the Philippines and his wages were a significant crutch for them.

He told the court the victim had a sick mother, a sibling with an intellectual disability, one with a hole in their heart and a sister now caring for two children alone.

Lahood argued the reparation figure should by more than $800,000.

Defence counsel Matthew Ferrier accepted the company's shortcomings and acknowledged on their behalf the anguish caused to the victim's family.

However, he disputed the reparation amount, saying aspects of his calculation were speculative.

The court heard the faulty cylinder had been inspected by the manufacturer just three weeks before the fatal incident.

While it accepted the cylinders were aged, they were considered "fit for purpose".

The manufacturer could not be prosecuted for jurisdictional reasons, the prosecutor said.

Princess Cruise Lines Failings

• Failed to ensure a proper risk assessment for managing pressure vessels aboard the Emerald Princess.
• The cylinder which exploded had not been tested within the required 10 years of last inspection.
• Crew tasked with refilling cylinders were untrained and not informed about visible signs of corrosion.

- Otago Daily Times