The captain of a private vessel has been fined after colliding with a police dock and vessel in the London region of the River Thames.
Daniel Wakefield, 38, of Wellington Road Tilbury, pleaded guilty to a charge of conduct endangering ships, structures or individuals under section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
Wakefield was handed a fine of £1,120 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200 when he appeared before Southwark crown court on 24th January.
Wakefield was the skipper of a boat called ‘Jewel of London’ on 13th December 2018. The catamaran had been booked to host a party for 135 passengers on the Thames.
After the passengers had disembarked at Canary Wharf shortly before 2300 hours, the Jewel of London began to travel back towards its mooring at Festival Pier on the South Bank.
Six bar staff were on board the vessel along with Mr Wakefield and first mate Jason Foster.
At 2305 hours, the boat hit the Metropolitan Police service marine unit workshop pontoon, causing a considerable amount of damage to the dock and to the vessel itself.
As it reversed out of the pier, it struck a moored police vessel that had two police officers on board.
The incident was captured on CCTV.
Mr Wakefield later admitted to having fallen asleep while in command of the vessel.
The court heard that the owner of the boat, London Party Boats, had failed to ensure there was a dedicated lookout, something required by the Passenger Safety Certificate of the Jewel of London.
The company was charged under section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 for being liable for the unsafe operation of a ship and was ordered to pay a fine of £5,000 and costs of £15,225.
The collision caused such considerable damage to the pontoon that the lift that hoists boats in and out of the water is now unsafe to use.
More than a year after the incident it’s still inoperable, and it’s estimated that the total cost for investigations, repairs and replacements needed after the damage will be between £1.25million and £1.6milion.
Police vessels, responsible for policing 47 miles of the River Thames and providing an around-the-clock response to marine incidents, have been unable to use the lift.
As the pontoon was also used to maintain and repair other vessels, the RNLI, London fire brigade and London city airport have also been affected.
In passing sentence, Judge Philip Bartle QC said:
“Fortunately no one was injured although two police officers were on board the police launch and the crew were onboard the Jewel.
“Had passengers been on board the Jewel it is highly likely that some would have been injured, possibly seriously.”
Maritime investigations manager at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency Paula Evans said:
“This was an entirely avoidable incident which has had very serious consequences which could have been even more severe.
“It is lucky that nobody was hurt in the collision.
“Keeping people safe is at the heart of what we do, and we are committed to working with our partner agencies to protect those on the water by stopping dangerous practices and vessels, and to hold accountable those responsible.”
It is thought the insurers of the boat operator will end up having to foot the bill for repairing the damage caused to the dock.
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