A man has been fined after pleading guilty to 2 offences following a joint investigation carried out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Regulatory Compliance Investigations Team and Hampshire Constabulary today (Thursday).
Sean Gower, 40, of Newlyn Way, Port Solent, who appeared before Isle of Wight Magistrates Court, was the master of a 6.5 metre-long RIB vessel which was almost directly involved in a collision with a Red Funnel passenger ferry, Red Osprey, in the main fairway of the River Medina on Saturday 12th September last year.
Mr Gower was handed a £2,000 fine, with full legal costs awarded to the MCA (£3,953) and an additional surcharge of £190 – making the total amount payable of £6,143.
Mr Gower, along with 3 companions in his vessel – none of whom were wearing lifejackets – departed Cowes Yacht Haven, Isle of Wight, and were shown on the Red Osprey’s CCTV camera to have been over the harbour speed limit of 6 knots before overtaking and turning sharply across the bow of the Southampton-bound ferry.
The dangerous manoeuvre, which was measured to have taken place at just 8 metres away from the ferry’s bow, forced the master of the Red Osprey to go hard astern and also caused a temporary loss of manoeuvrability and awareness. The RIB continued on its passage at speed, towards Portsmouth, despite the presence of other small craft in the Solent at the time.
This incident led to a joint investigation by the MCA and Hampshire Constabulary, in which Mr Gower was identified as the driver of the RIB and subsequently interviewed, admitting that he had no prior knowledge of the ‘rules of the road’ and confirmed that he had carried out the manoeuvre.
CCTV from the ferry operator and additional statements from the crew of the Red Osprey added that Mr Gower’s actions had put the ferry and other surrounding vessels at risk.
Mr Gower pleaded guilty to 2 offences. He was found, under Section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, to have committed an act which was likely to have caused the loss or destruction of, or serious damage to, a ship or structure; or the death of, or serious injury to, any person.
He was also found guilty of impeding the safe navigation of the Red Osprey within the Inner Fairway, which is contrary to rule 9 of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea 1972, as well as regulations 4 and 6 of the Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996 and Sections 85 and 86 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
Mark Cam, Lead Investigator with the MCA’s Regulatory Compliance Investigations Team, said:
“This result demonstrates that the MCA will always take appropriate and necessary action when a complete lack of compliance and disregard for the laws of the sea are shown, which compromise not only safety but ultimately the lives of many. We want to send a clear message such offences are not acceptable and those unwilling to follow rules and regulation and improve standards of safety will face the full weight of the law.”
PC Mark Arnold of Hampshire Constabulary’s Marine Support Unit said:
“Gower showed a shocking lack of regard for his own safety and those around him when he decided to flout the speed restrictions and make this manoeuvre.
“Not only did he put himself and his passengers at risk of serious injury or death, but he jeopardised the safety of those onboard the ferry, which was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
“Gower had a very limited knowledge of operating a boat when he set out that day, and this incident highlights just how important it is to know and respect the rules when taking charge of a vessel.
“We continue to do a lot of work as part of Operation Wavebreaker to prevent antisocial behaviour on our waters, but this incident goes far beyond that and we thank the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for bringing this case to court.
“We hope this acts as a reminder to be responsible when out on the water this summer, particularly if you are around larger vessels.”