A French cruise company and one of its Masters were fined a total of NZ$100,000 for endangering human life and entering a prohibited zone in the remote New Zealand sub-Antarctic Snares Islands in January, 2017.
At Wellington District Court in October, Compagnie du Ponant was fined NZ$70,000 while Captain Regis Daumesnil, a French citizen, was fined NZ$30,000. They had pleaded guilty following the grounding of the cruise ship L’Austral, 10,940gt, on an unchartered rock in the islands on Jan 7, 2017.
The Snares Islands are the northernmost of New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands and are about 100km south-west of the Stewart Islands. The main island in the group is North-East Island.
The charges against Capt Daumesnil were brought by Maritime NZ and the Department of Conservation with the Department also prosecuting the company.
Charges were filed against Capt Daumesnil under the Marine Transport Act 1994 for causing unnecessary danger or risk to the people on board, and against both the Captain and the company under the Resource Management Act 1991 for entering a 300m exclusion zone around the islands.
As a result of the grounding, the ship’s hull was punctured in three places. Rather than return to Bluff, the nearest port, Capt Daumesnil decided to continue with the cruise schedule to the Auckland Islands, a further 285km south. The ship was carrying 356 passengers and crew.
“His ship grounded, was holed and everyone on board was endangered. Capt. Daumesnil then made the situation worse by sailing further away from any possible help, should it have been needed,” said Mike Vredenburg, Maritime NZ southern regional compliance manager.