Yacht Skipper Fined for Crashing into Tanker

Friday, October 25, 2013
Racing yacht Atalanta of Chester collides with oil tanker Hanne Knutsen. (Photo: The Telegraph)

The skipper of a racing yacht has been made to pay over £100,000 in fines and costs after colliding with a 120,000 ton oil tanker in the Solent.

Roland Wilson of Perthshire, Scotland was today found guilty on three counts of breaching international maritime law at West Hampshire Magistrates' Court.

On August 6, 2011, the yacht Atalanta of Chester was taking part in the first day of racing at Cowes Week. Heading towards Southampton Docks was the tanker Hanne Knutsen.

Skipper Roland Wilson, who at the time was a Royal Navy Lieutenant, said he spotted the red tanker when it was five miles away. However, the yacht sailed into the moving exclusion zone protecting the Hanne Knutsen. Fearing for his safety, a crew member on board the yacht then jumped overboard moments before they collided with the front of the tanker.

The yacht’s rigging then got caught up on the tanker’s anchor causing the mast to collapse onto to the head of one of the crew. He later was taken to hospital but wasn’t seriously injured.

Roland Wilson was today found guilty of failing to keep a proper lookout, and impeding a vessel using a narrow channel. He was fined £3,000, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15, and made to pay costs of £100,056.68.

In passing sentence, Judge Anthony Calloway said, "Fortuitous it was that there was no loss of life. The potential for even greater and tragic consequence is, in my judgment, apparent.”

Calloway continued, "This was not some Saturday afternoon jaunt by some inadequate vessel crewed by inexperienced, clueless and foolhardy people who frankly have no business being on the water at all. The yacht took a decision, and as I find the wrong decision, to sail towards the problem into the path of the tanker across a narrow channel. It should have kept clear and in the worst event used her engine."

Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of Enforcement with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said, "Compliance with the international regulations avoids collisions. It was very fortunate that Mr. Wilson’s actions did not result in very tragic consequences. This case should serve as a reminder to all who use the water that a good lookout, a full appraisal of the situation and early action is essential to avoid incidents like this occurring.”


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