A catamaran for the country's largest public ferry operator might be considered cursed after again sailing into troubled waters.
The Kea will likely cost the Fullers Group another significant fine after a second incident during one of its voyages led to more passenger injuries and a second court case.
Yesterday, the Fullers Group pleaded guilty to one amended charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act after a prosecution by Maritime New Zealand.
The maximum penalty for the offence of failing to comply with a duty that exposed an individual to risk of death or serious injury is a $1.5 million fine.
The case came after a passenger aboard the Kea was injured when it collided with Devonport's Victoria Wharf in Waitematā Harbour on November 9, 2017.
It is the same ferry and same wharf which saw Fullers ordered to pay nearly $100,000 to victims of a February 2015 crash, which injured dozens of passengers and crew.
The Kea, which due to flaws was only allowed to be sailed by experienced ferry masters, was detained by Maritime NZ and returned to service in July 2015 following inspection.
At the time of the November 2017 incident, emergency services treated a 45-year-old woman who fell down the stairs of the Kea as it attempted to dock just after 9pm.
She was taken to North Shore Hospital with moderate injuries.
A passenger also wrote on Facebook at the time about the rough end to the voyage.
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"I was thrown too, landing in front of her. I stayed with her and tended to her until [the] Fire brigade arrived and took over the care of her."
He said the woman had a head injury, but was responsive.
There were some 50 passengers on board when the ferry hit the wharf, Fullers chief executive Mike Horne said at the time.
In a statement to the Herald yesterday, Horne said the company has "fully cooperated with Maritime New Zealand throughout the proceedings".
"Safety continues to be our number one priority, ensuring customer wellbeing on board," he said.
Judge Robert Ronayne yesterday asked for preparations to be made for restorative justice between Fullers and any victims.
The company will be sentenced over the 2017 incident later this year in the Auckland District Court.
The 2015 crash occurred when the Kea, with 61 passengers aboard, collided with Victoria Wharf during a voyage from downtown Auckland.
It was sailing at about 7 knots (about 13km/h) when it hit the pier, injuring dozens of its passengers and crew - 19 of whom were taken to hospital.
Longstanding and experienced vessel master Lane van der Linden was at the helm that day.
In an interview with Maritime NZ after the incident he said a faulty digital control system meant he began operating from the starboard wing station.
He said he then transferred to the central wheelhouse while crossing the harbour.
As the Kea neared the dry dock at the Devonport Naval Base, van der Linden transferred control of the vessel back to the starboard station.
However, as the ferry approached the wharf, he discovered he had no response or control of the vessel's starboard thruster.
Despite van der Linden attempting to regain control and turn the Kea back into open water the ferry hit the wharf.
There was no warning for passengers to brace before the crash, which projected passengers and crew forwards.
Unsecured bench seating on the Kea's main deck also toppled over and crumpled.
All the seats on Fullers vessels are now fixed as a result of the crash.
In 2015 Fullers had been twice warned by Maritime NZ about concerns with its equipment, court documents obtained by the Herald from the first case show.
Fullers pleaded guilty over the 2015 incident for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or inaction of any employee harmed another person.
In May 2017, it was sentenced and ordered to pay $92,500 to the victims and fined $40,000.
The case also revealed that in late 2014, Fullers upgraded the defective Kea's control system to a digital version, known as the follow-up mode.
However, between October 2014 and the 2015 crash there were at least nine recorded faults with the system, preventing an alignment with all the control stations on the ferry, court documents read.
On at least 15 days between October 29, 2014 and the 2015 crash, the Kea was out of service or at a reduced service due to the broken system.
In November 2014, Fullers consulted with Maritime NZ about the issues on the ferry and it was decided the vessel would be operated without the follow-up mode.
After the meeting, one of Kea's masters requested they sail the vessel from the central wheelhouse, because it provided access to the ferry's radar, GPS and engine gauges - which the wing stations did not.
There was also a "large visual blind spot" caused by the Kea's funnel when navigating from the wing stations, the master said.
Masters of the Kea were then permitted to move between and manually operate the vessel from both the central and wing stations provided there was enough open sea.
Additional watch crew were also assigned and only experienced masters were allowed to operate the troubled ferry.
But in internal memos to staff during late November 2014, Fuller's health and safety manager said the faults were still "resulting in a number of potentially serious control failure incidents".
The risks to the Kea were also still deemed "heightened" as masters continued to operate the ferry between the central and wing stations.
"[It] increased the risk of an incident occurring as a result of the manual transfer process failing or effective control not being transferred between the stations," court documents read.
Despite the disabling of the follow-up mode there were about a dozen incidents before the 2015 crash as the Kea's control was compromised by the "difficulties experienced by the masters in transferring manual control".
This year, Waiheke Island ferry users have vented their frustration over delays on the Fullers services.
The company makes some 100,000 voyages and transports about 4.5 million passengers annually.