The master and second officer of the containership Rena have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the grounding of the vessel on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga on October 5, following a Maritime New Zealand investigation.
The master pleaded guilty to all charges against him in front of Tauranga District Court and the second officer pleaded guilty pleas to all charges bar one under the Resource Management Act. The court will sentence the two officials on May 25, according to MNZ.
MNZ has charged the officials on three occasions following an incident it described as New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.
On October 12, it charged the two men under the 1994 Maritime Transport Act “for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk”. The crime carries a maximum penalty of NZ$10,000 ($8,423) or a maximum 12-month prison term.
In November, MNZ charged the two officers under the 1991 Resource Management Act with “discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations”, a charge that carries a penalty of NZ$300,000 or up to two years in prison.
In December, MNZ also charged the two men under the Crimes Act, accusing them of a wilful attempt “to pervert the course of justice”, altering ship documents after the grounding. The master faced four charges under the December lawsuit and the second officer three. Each charge carries a penalty of up to seven years in jail.
The 3,032 teu Rena, owned by Greece’s Costamare, leaked about 350 tonnes of bunker fuel when it struck the reef.
The vessel split in heavy seas in January and the rear section has now sunk. Salvagers continue to remove containers from the vessel.