Negligent skipper whose ship ran aground on Rathlin is fined £1,000
The eastern European captain of a cargo vessel that ran aground on Rathlin Island last week has been fined £1,000 after failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to safely navigate his ship, causing serious damage to it.
Aleksandr Iakovotsov, of the Netherlands-registered MV Ruyter, entered his guilty plea at Armagh Court on Tuesday.
He faced two charges brought by the Maritime Coastal Agency (MCA).
The first was that he had broken two international shipping codes in respect of failing to keep a proper lookout in order to judge any risk of collision.
A second charge was that Iakovotsov had failed to provide sufficient lookout "during the hours of darkness". He was fined £500 on each count.
The cargo of Russian timber being ferried by the vessel was unloaded at Warrenpoint.
However, the boat is still being detained by the MCA until its surveyors accept plans from the owners about how they plan to carry out the necessary repairs and have it towed to a dock to carry them out.
Ship tracking website www.vesselfinder.com shows the 2,500-tonner left the Russian port of Lemosov on October 3. It passed through the ports of Copenhagen in Denmark and South Ronaldsay in Scotland before making the final leg of its journey to Northern Ireland.
According to the MCA, just after 10.30pm on Tuesday, October 10, the UK Coastguard received a radio message that the vessel had run aground on the north side of Rathlin.
Rathlin Coastguard Rescue Team and Portrush RNLI lifeboat were sent to monitor the incident as the MV Ruyter corrected itself back to a fit state to sail onwards.
The Ruyter did call HM Coastguard in Belfast to report the incident, but reported no damage at that stage.
However, when it reached Warrenpoint at around 1.30pm on October 11, the harbour pilot noticed the ship was listing. He also noted that the deck cargo had shifted.
At this point the harbourmaster found there was flooding to the bow and to a tank there. She ordered an underwater inspection, which revealed extensive damage to the front of the Ruyter.
With Storm Ophelia approaching Ireland, the freighter was allowed to dock at Warrenpoint, and an inspection conducted by the MCA resulted in it being detained.
At Armagh Court, Judge Paul Copeland told Iakovotsov: "It should have been apparent to you, as an experienced mariner, that you were on a collision course as you left Islay towards Northern Ireland.
"You chose to leave the bridge as the ship approached the coast of Northern Ireland.
"It should have been apparent to you from the radar that you were getting close to the shore.
"The lights on Rathlin Island should also have been apparent to you.
"You are fortunate that the ship struck a shallow patch under the cliffs and that you were able to come off in a short time.
"Fortunately, no one on board was injured."
The judge said he was satisfied alcohol was not involved and no other ships were put in danger.
"I am also taking into account you have been 31 years at sea, with 16 years as captain, and in this context you have been relieved of your command and this will affect your future work," he added.
"I fine you £1,000, or 28 days in prison if this is not paid within 24 hours. You will remain in custody until the fine is paid."
Iakovotsov was released later on Tuesday and has returned to Russia.
MCA technical manager Captain Bill Bennett said: "The captain is very lucky that the outcome was not more serious."
He said the lack of a lookout "put his crew and his vessel at risk".