NEW Zealand’s New Plymouth District Court fined Saurabh Kumar Singh NZ$1000 for exceeding the alcohol limit for a seafarer.
Mr Singh was master of SG Pegasus, a Panama-registered oil and chemical tanker due to depart New Plymouth on the evening of 11 December. Mr Singh has also been removed from his position as master.
Maritime NZ’s regional manager central Michael-Paul Abbott said the sentencing of a cargo ship’s master is a strong reminder and warning to seafarers: “if you are over the alcohol limit, you will be prosecuted. Safety is paramount”.
New Plymouth pilots became concerned at Mr Singh’s behaviour when they boarded SG Pegasus to help guide the tanker out of New Plymouth Harbour.
The pilots contacted Maritime NZ’s local maritime officer who attended on board with police. The master failed an initial breath test on board and was then taken to the local police station for an evidential breath test which he also failed. Police subsequently prosecuted the man on behalf of Maritime NZ.
The master had a reading exceeding 880 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, breaching the Maritime Transport Act limit of 250 micrograms for seafarers on board international ships.
The master was also in breach of shipping company Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Singapore’s policy that the vessel is a dry ship, meaning that no alcohol can be onboard at any time.
The tanker was due to sail on to Nelson and then Lyttleton, but Maritime NZ ordered that the vessel remain in New Plymouth while a replacement master was put on board in order to meet safe manning standards.
Mr Abbott praised the New Plymouth pilots for their astute assessment of the situation and immediate actions that started this case. He also thanked the Police for assisting Maritime NZ to prosecute this matter quickly.
“The prosecution today is a stern reminder that swift action will be taken if we find seafarers over the limit.” Mr Abbott said.
“The master is legally responsible for their ship and all on board, and must be able to carry out their duties safely. Alcohol can impair the ability to make appropriate judgements and increases the risks of accidents.”
Mr Abbott said the master’s decision to drink while in charge of his ship put his crew, seafarers on other ships, the environment, local economies and local communities at risk.
“While extremely disappointed with this master’s actions to begin with, we are pleased with the prompt actions of the pilots in bringing this to our attention, the police for their support, and the shipping company for reinforcing their no tolerance approach to alcohol on board the ship,” he said.