Tyne & Wear

Grounded ship MV Danio's operator fined £60,000

Motor Vessel Danio
Image caption The vessel was left stranded on rocks for two weeks

The operator of a cargo ship that ran aground on the Farne Islands has been fined £60,000 for safety breaches.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the six-man crew of the 262ft (80m) MV Danio were asleep when it hit rocks at the islands, off the Northumberland coast, last March.

German firm Cux Ship Management previously admitted two safety breaches under Merchant Shipping Regulations.

The company was also ordered to pay court costs of more than £12,000.

The court heard how the vessel sailed for 90 minutes with all crew asleep.

They only woke up when the Danio ploughed into rocks beneath the Longstone Lighthouse, but even then waited an hour before alerting the coastguard.

Alarm 'switched off'

Prosecutors from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the Danio had a "very basic" bridge navigational watch alarm system, which should rung to alert the crew they were approaching the lighthouse.

But it had been switched off and with the crew asleep, the vessel was left sailing for miles on autopilot using an unapproved navigation system.

The Farne Islands, about three miles (5km) from the mainland, are home to about 80,000 pairs of seabirds and a large grey seal colony.

The crew were stuck on board for two weeks as bad weather postponed rescue attempts.

The ship, which was heading from Perth to Antwerp, was carrying 27 tonnes of diesel fuel and 1,500 tonnes of timber.

It was eventually re-floated and taken to the Port of Świnoujście in Poland for repairs.

Judge Brian Forster said: "It is clear to me the shocking failure to comply with regulations led the vessel to sail on automatically.

"The potential for disaster was obvious as it sailed on silently at night, with no lookout, with the threat to other vessels at sea."

Christopher Knox, defending, said the operator has instructed that the bridge alarm must not be turned off in future, and that measures are now in place to make sure all crews employed are correctly qualified.

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