Rena report: arrival time unrealistic

An interim report had already found the crew had deviated from its intended course.

See also: Reality of Rena site revealed

'The report into what grounded the cargo ship Rena in 2011 says it was not clear who was in charge of the ship when it grounded on a submerged reef off Bay of Plenty.

Today the Transport Accident Investigation Information Commission released its full report into what caused the grounding of the ship, which led to oil discharges into the sea and nearby beaches.

The Rena's captain, Mauro Balomaga, pleaded guilty to all charges made under the Maritime, Resource Management and Crimes Acts and was convicted and jailed for seven months over the grounding, while the ship's owner, Daina, agreed to pay the Crown up to $38 million in compensation.

An interim report had already found the crew had deviated from its intended course when it struck the submerged reef at a rate of 17 knots.

Today’s full report, presented by John Marshall QC, found fatigue was likely to have at least mildly affected the captain and second mate but there was insufficient evidence to determine whether that caused the grounding. 

The report says the captain’s work and sleep schedule in the three days preceding the accident placed him at risk of his cognitive performance being impaired by fatigue. The captain had only been awake for 38 minutes before the boat ran aground.

“The master assumed control of the Rena when the ship was tracking directly for Astrolabe Reef. There was no clear delineation of who had control of the Rena at the time of the grounding, and the master, having assumed that he had taken control, had received virtually no information on where the ship was, where it was heading, and what immediate dangers to navigation he needed to consider,” the report says. 

According to the Rena’s charterer, there was no pressure for the master to make the early-morning tide, and the master confirmed this.

“The pressure the master put on himself and the bridge watchkeepers to achieve the unrealistic arrival time was a consequence of miscalculating how long the passage would take, and thus miscalculating the time of arrival," the report says. 

The report says this pressure was ultimately what led to the series of ill-thought-out deviations from the passage plan, the last of which directly contributed to the grounding.

It also says a light beacon placed on Astrolabe Reef probably would have prevented the grounding.

However, it notes that there are more modern and accurate navigation systems for avoiding such navigational dangers, and suggest the costs might not outweigh the benefits of maintaining light beacons on all such rocks and reefs.

The report concludes that the Rena grounding was not in any way attributable to the malfunction of any on-board machinery or equipment, including on-board navigational equipment. 

Read the full report here