FERRY MASTER IN COURT

The trial started today of the captain of a Cook Strait ferry which carried passengers to Picton and back to Wellington with a 3.5 metre gash in the side after a collision with another ship during a stormy berthing.

John Henderson, 67, a master of ship who lives in Invercargill, has pleaded not guilty to being the holder of a maritime document, a certificate of competency, and, being in charge of the Santa Regina, doing an act that caused unnecessary danger to the crew or passengers between April 26 and April 27, 2011.

Crown prosecutor Ian Murray told a Wellington District Court jury the Santa Regina was sailed from Picton to Wellington on April 26, 2011 in high winds and rain.

Henderson was the master of the ship, employed by Strait Shipping.

During an attempt to berth at Glasgow wharf the Santa Regina was blown sideways and collided with another ship, the Southern Prospector, and the wharf.

Mr Murray said two holes were torn in the hull, a minor one of about 12cm which was repaired and a 3.5m gash which breached the hull and was not noticed during a torchlight inspection.

The Santa Regina was then sailed back to Picton and returned to Wellington with the gash in place which was not seen until a member of the Wellington Harbourmasters team spotted it.

Mr Murray said during the sailings there was storm warning in place for Cook Strait.

He told the jury the problem was the inadequate inspection of the ship after the collision which led to two more sailings putting the crew and passengers at unnecessary risk.

Henderson’s lawyer Michael Reed, QC, told the jury the size of the gash was disputed and the defence said it was 1.85m and was cosmetic rather than structural.

He said no water entered the hole during either crossing and at no time was there any risk of the ship sinking or risk to the passengers or crew.

Mr Reed said Henderson was a very experienced captain who would never have sailed if he thought there had been any risk.

The trial is expected to take the rest of the week.© Fairfax NZ News

Ferry captain denies risky sailing

Last updated 16:55 13/03/2014
A ferry captain did not put anyone at risk by sailing with a gash in the side of the Santa Regina ferry, a court has heard
John Henderson’s lawyer Michael Reed QC opened the defence case to a Wellington District Court jury by saying the Crown’s own expert witness had agreed there had been no risk.
Henderson, 67, a master of ship who lives in Invercargill, has pleaded not guilty to being the holder of a maritime document, a certificate of competency and, being in charge of the Santa Regina, did an act that caused unnecessary danger to the crew or passengers between April 25 and April 28, 2011.
The Crown has alleged that after a collision with a fishing boat at Glasgow Wharf during bad weather, the Santa Regina was left with a 3.5m gash in its side, which was not noticed while the ship sailed to Picton then back to Wellington.
Mr Reed said there had been an incident that night, a very minor bump against the Southern Prospector fishing boat while the Santa Regina was trying to berth.
A small hole of 12cm was found which was fixed before the ferry left port again.
The other, which was an opening of 1.8m, was not any danger or risk to crew or passengers on the ferry, Mr Reed said.
The Crown had said the gash was 3.5m but Mr Reed pointed out the opening was 1.8m while the whole scrape was 3.5m.
Mr Reed said Henderson had been very thorough in his inspection of the ship after the bump.
The gash to the side was not noticed in Wellington, during the sailing, while in Picton by any of the handlers and was not spotted until the ferry arrived back in Wellington, he told the jury.
Henderson did not have command of the Santa Regina throughout the whole trip. Another captain shared the duty and was responsible for berthing in Picton and beginning the trip back to Wellington.
Mr Reed said while it was true that a gash in the side was not a good look and if spotted should have been fixed before the Santa Regina left port, it posed no threat.
“No water got in and it was nonsense to suggest that any water getting in would have caused a problem,” he said.
He told the jury they would hear from Henderson along with two experts, including a leading naval architect.
“It is absurd that a ship’s master of his (Henderson’s) experience would put anyone at risk,” Mr Reed said.
The trial is expected to finish next week.
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