French cruise company Compagnie du Ponant and the master of cruise ship L’Austral have been fined a total of NZD 100,000 (USD 65,800) for endangering human life and entering a prohibited zone following an incident in the remote New Zealand Subantarctic islands.
The company received a fine of NZD 70,000, while Captain Regis Daumesnil, a French citizen, was fined NZD 30,000 in the Wellington District Court. They had pleaded guilty to charges following the January 9, 2017 grounding of the cruise ship L’Austral on an uncharted rock at the Snares Islands.
Both Maritime NZ and the Department of Conservation (DOC) brought charges against Captain Daumesnil, with DOC also prosecuting the company.
Charges were filed against Captain Daumesnil under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 for causing unnecessary danger or risk to the people on board, and against both Captain Daumesnil and the company under the Resource Management Act 1991 for entering a 300-meter exclusion zone around the Islands.
As a result of the grounding the vessel’s hull was punctured in three places. Rather than return to Bluff, the nearest port, Captain Daumesnil made the decision to continue on the cruise schedule to the Auckland Islands, a further 285 km south. There were 356 passengers and crew onboard.
“His ship grounded, was holed and everyone on board was endangered. Captain Daumesnil then made the situation worse by sailing further away, from any possible help, should it have been needed,” Mike Vredenburg, Maritime NZ Southern Regional Compliance Manager, said.
Captain Daumesnil had an inadequate plan for sailing around North East Island, no plan at all for drifting close to shore while recovering boats, did not identify areas of danger, and did not monitor that the ship remained in safe water.
The Court has ordered that 90 per cent of the fine laid under the Resource Management Act charges be awarded to DOC, on behalf of the Minister of Conservation, as the local authority for the Subantarctic Islands. DOC intends to use those funds towards planning for its Auckland Islands pest eradication project.