Ferry Owner Fined After Control System Failure

Kea after accident.

By MarEx 2017-06-06 03:12:00

New Zealand ferry company Fullers Group has been fined for failure to mitigate the risks arising from a known fault on one of the company's ferries.

Fullers was fined NZ$40,000 ($28,000) and ordered to pay reparations of NZ$90,000 ($64,000) after passengers were injured when the Auckland ferry Kea collided with Victoria wharf at Devonport on February 17, 2015.

Maritime NZ Regional Compliance Manager, Northern, Neil Rowarth said while the company had identified problems with the vessel’s digital control system, it had failed to adequately manage the risk to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.

A new control system installed on the Kea in October 2014 was designed to allow the master to control the vessel from four separate stations on the bridge. Faults were identified with the system when transferring control between stations in the system’s automatic mode of operation.

Fullers continued to operate the Kea. To address the risks from the control system issues, Fullers implemented procedures which included switching off the control system’s automatic mode and operating it manually. 

However, this was inadequate to mitigate risks to passengers and crew, says Rowarth, because allowing masters to transfer control between stations while the vessel was moving, increased the risk of an incident if the manual transfer process failed. 

Masters had previously experienced situations when control did not transfer properly between stations when the vessel was operating in manual mode.

On the day of the incident, the master attempted to transfer control between stations. The transfer was unsuccessful, and the master lost control of one of the vessel’s thrusters. The ferry hit the wharf at a speed of approximately seven knots.

Because bench seating on the main deck of the vessel was not secured, the impact with the wharf caused the seating to topple forward landing on some of the passengers. At least 19 were injured, ranging from cuts and bruises to a serious concussion.