The Maritime Safety Authority released a report on the fatal collision in November 2001 involving the yacht Toolka T and the tug Wainui, which was towing a barge.
Toolka T crossed between the tug and the barge and became fouled in the submerged tow line. The yacht collided with the barge and sank as the barge ran over it. The skipper of the yacht was killed.
"The MSA's accident investigation details poor watchkeeping practices on both the tug and the yacht and reveals an alarming lack of knowledge of the collision rules at sea," says Russell Kilvington
, Director of Maritime Safety.
"These vessels were in coastal waters, in a busy shipping lane with crew at the helm who simply did not have the necessary skills to be left alone and in charge."
"The helmsperson on Toolka T did not have sufficient technical knowledge to recognise the lights displayed on Wainui as those of a vessel towing another vessel. She did not look for a towed vessel when she altered course and crossed behind the tug. She did not know how to plot the course and speed of another vessel using radar and was not familiar with the collision rules. Also she was short sighted and not wearing corrective lenses."
"Both watchkeepers on Wainui failed to navigate in accordance with the maritime rules. Neither made any attempt to contact Toolka T by VHF radio to establish its course, nor did they sound the whistle in warning or turn on the tug's spotlight to illuminate the barge."
"The watchkeeper on duty at the time of the collision failed to operate the engine controls which could have allowed the tow line to submerge further, when faced with the emergency," says Mr Kilvington.
The MSA's accident investigation report recommends severe censure for both watchkeepers on Wainui and instructs the owner to ensure all watchkeepers are adequately trained.
The report also recommends severe censure for the watchkeeper on Toolka T and further recommends that she obtain a Boatmaster qualification, the minimum appropriate qualification for anyone undertaking a coastal or deepsea voyage.
"Anyone who sails on a vessel, whether commercial or recreational, must know and understand the maritime rules. The sea can be unforgiving of mistakes and in this case one man tragically lost his life not because of bad luck, but because of lack of knowledge," says Kilvington.