04 April 2015

[040415.EN.SEA] Kiwi Pilot Reports Drunk Master, Who Was Fined, Fired From MUR Shipping

CAPTAIN Parmod Kumar, master of the 37,707-dwt bulk carrier African Harrier has been fined NZ$3,000 (US$2,272) after pleading guilty to operating the ship while drunk in Tauranga District Court.

He was also fired by Dubai-based MUR Shipping, which according to its website controls up to 100 owned and chartered vessels operating on 25 routes and employs 170 worldwide and operates in 13 countries.

The 2014-built ship was due to leave Tauranga on March 22, but the ship's pilot expressed concern to Maritime New Zealand that the master was under the influence of alcohol.

A breath test at Tauranga Police Station showed the man had a breath alcohol level of 1229 micrograms per litre, almost five times the legal limit of 250mg/l, reported World Maritime News.

It reported New Zealand Herald citing a statement from MUR Shipping confirming the ship's master has been "relieved of his command at the Port of Tauranga due to a breach of the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping Regulation Vlll/1," and the company's own rigorous Drug and Alcohol Abuse Policy."

According to the shipping company, a replacement master has been appointed and the vessel has now sailed for Marsden Point.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said he did not want to contemplate what could have happened if Mr Kumar had captained the African Harrier out of the Port of Tauranga. However, he was proud of the actions of the pilot who first alerted Maritime New Zealand.

The pilot's actions showed how serious the port was about safety, he said.
Mr Cairns said over the last few years the port had been looking at introducing random alcohol and drug testings on port staff on top of pre-employment testing already in place with all management staff having had training on how to identify people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

It was the first alcohol-related offence at the port in the 10 years he had been there, he said.
Maritime New Zealand Director Keith Manch said the legislation did not allow random alcohol and drug testing.

However, many companies would have their own drug and alcohol policies which would manage these sorts of issues internally.

"New Zealand-employed pilots are on board all big ships during arrivals and departures in our ports. This means we have "eyes on the bridge" of each ship that visits a New Zealand port. We have no evidence to suggest alcohol use is a widespread problem."

Mr Manch said testing would be undertaken when there was reasonable suspicion of a breach of the law but the Ministry of Transport was exploring the need for a new regime to manage alcohol and drug related impairment in aviation, maritime and rail.

Mr Manch said in 2010, Maritime New Zealand used its Port State Control powers to detain the vessel Tasman Pathfinder in Wellington, after the pilot reported the master was under the influence of alcohol. The ship was also kept in port until a replacement master was flown out by the company.
A replacement master has been appointed to the African Harrier and the vessel has now sailed for Marsden Point.

Source : SN – TR.

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