The Master and Second Officer of the cargo vessel Rena today pleaded guilty to 10 out of the 11 charges laid by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) against the men following an investigation into the ship's grounding on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga on 5 October.
MNZ charged the Master and the ship’s Second Officer (Navigation) with a number of offences following the ship’s grounding.
On 12 October, MNZ charged both men under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994, “for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk”.
The MTA charge carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.
Further charges were laid by MNZ on 2 November, against each man under section 338 (1B) and (15B) of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) relating to the “discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations”.
The RMA charge carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $300,000, or two years’ imprisonment, and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.
On 21 December, both men were also charged under S117(e) & 66 of the Crimes Act, alleging they “wilfully attempted to pervert the course of justice” by altering ship’s documents subsequent to the grounding.
The Master faces four charges under the Crimes Act, and the Second Officer three charges.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.
Today, appearing in the Tauranga District Court, the Master entered guilty pleas to all six charges laid against him.
The Second Officer pleaded guilty to the MTA charge and all three Crimes Act charges, but entered no plea to the RMA charge. If necessary a two day hearing will take place on the 22 and 23 May to hear legal argument regarding the RMA charge.
Sentencing for both men will take place in the Tauranga District Court on 25 May.
Note the names and identities of both men remain suppressed.
MNZ will make no further comment while the matter is before the courts.