In a landmark case, on 23 August 2016, Aubrey James Morris and Marcus Patrick Rawlinson were each convicted and fined $40,000 after pleading guilty in the Townsville District Court to one count each of operating a detained vessel.
Morris was the Master of the 25.5-metre fishing trawler Huon Petrel and Rawlinson is a director of RMD Marine Ltd, the New Zealand company that owns the vessel.
On 11 June 2015, an officer from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) inspected the Huon Petrel at Fisherman’s Marina in Townsville where it was docked. A multitude of deficiencies were identified. Specifically a hole in the forward bulkhead was identified and the vessel was deemed unseaworthy. As a result a Detention Notice was issued by AMSA and given to Morris.
The next day, an AMSA officer delivered a Notice of Imposition of Conditions that had been issued by Maritime New Zealand. Morris and Rawlinson were then required to meet not only the conditions set out in AMSA’s Detention Notice before they could leave, but those imposed by New Zealand as well.
Around 27 June, the Huon Petrel departed Townsville in contravention of the Detention Notice with Morris as skipper and Rawlinson as deckhand. AMSA had not authorised the vessel’s release from detention or departure from the Port of Townsville.
On 29 June, the vessel arrived at Shute Harbour in Airlie Beach. The next day Rawlinson was interviewed by Customs officers and on 2 July, both he and Morris were arrested.
Charge / Sentence
The defendants were convicted and sentenced on 23 August 2016 after guilty pleas in relation to:
- One count each of operating a detained vessel contrary to section 249(2) of the Navigation Act 2012
In sentencing, Judge Baulch said that due to the “limited remorse” shown by the defendants and their “deliberate and defiant” behaviour, he would impose a fine of “such a magnitude so as to make non-compliance not commercially viable for others who operate in this industry”.
“…you chose to take an unseaworthy vessel to sea and expose yourselves, rescuers and the environment to harm… The potential damage to the reef was potentially high and a complete spill would have caused a silvery sheen of approximately 100 square miles and would have significant effects. I accept the Crown’s submission that this is a serious example of this offence…..It is fortunate that no actual damage occurred and no one had to be rescued. .”