A QUEENSLAND charter boat skipper has been convicted and fined more than $15,000 after a successful prosecution by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of AMSA.   

The skipper was convicted with operating in breach of the vessel’s Certificate of Operation, for assuming the role of master without the proper qualifications and for reckless operation of the vessel which, amongst a litany of other serious safety issues, led to the vessel grounding near Hook Passage in the Whitsundays.  

In November 2022, 13 passengers embarked on the private charter boat Waltzing Matilda for a three-day 21st birthday celebration. 

The court heard that during the voyage, the skipper allowed unqualified, inexperienced, and unwilling passengers to assume control of the vessel for lengthy periods of time, while unsupervised – including during the grounding incident. 

The skipper also failed to provide the required standard of lifejackets for the passengers, failed to properly secure the tender to the main vessel to ensure that it would not drift away, and allowed multiple safety violations to occur during the grounding, AMSA said.

The skipper was charged with the offences after failing to pay fines related to the incident. He failed to appear at the Proserpine Magistrates Court for the hearing.   

He was subsequently convicted of three offences under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012. 

The Magistrate noted in court that the grounding would have been terrifying for the passengers on board. 

AMSA manager of enforcement and inspector support David Marsh said he hoped the conviction would provide a timely reminder to vessel operators that reckless behaviour would be punished.

“If you’re a domestic commercial vessel operator, there is nothing more important than safety,” he said. 

“Skippers and operators should take notice that AMSA will take action if you break the law while operating a vessel.”