The captain of a Dutch motor vessel that ran aground at Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland has been fined £1,000 at Armagh Magistrate’s Court after pleading guilty to failing to keep a proper look out.

Aleksandr Iakovtsov was the captain of the MV Ruyter when it grounded on the north coast of Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland earlier this month.

The Dutch cargo ship was carrying a cargo of timber from Lemosov, Russia to Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland when the incident happened at 10.30pm on 10 October.

Captain Iakovtsov was charged under the Merchant Shipping Distress Signals and Prevention of Collision Regulations 1996 and also of failing to safely navigate his ship and causing serious damage to the ship (in breach of section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995).

He pleaded guilty to all the charges brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The court heard that when the MV Ruyter grounded it reported the incident to HM Coatguard Belfast.

A lifeboat and Coastguard Rescue Team was launched and was present when the ship refloated under its own power.

The ship reported no damage at the time and continued her voyage to Warrenpoint, reporting to the Coastguard every hour. There was no change of status.

When the ship arrived at about 1.30pm on 11 October at Warrenpoint, the pilot noticed the ship was .75 meters by the head and had a list.

The timber deck cargo had also shifted a little.

The harbour master at Warrenpoint found there was flooding to the bow thrust compartment and to the fore peak tank. She requested the ship to have an immediate underwater inspection.

An inspection was carried out on 12 October which revealed extensive damage over the forward third of the vessel’s length. The number 1 double bottom tank was breached and flooded in addition to the fore peak and bow thrust compartment.

Due to the strong winds associated with Storm Ophelia now rapidly approaching Ireland, the ship was allowed to berth in Warrenpoint on 15 October 2017.

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The cargo was discharged to facilitate further inspection and a port state control inspection by the MCA resulted in the MV Ruyter being detained.

In sentencing Captain Iakovtsov, His Worship Paul Copeland said: “It should have been apparent to you as an experienced mariner that you were on a collision course as you left Islay towards Northern Ireland. You chose to leave the bridge as the ship approached the coast of Ireland.”

“It should have been apparent to you from the radar that you were getting close to the shore. The lights on Rathlin should also be apparent to you. You are fortunate the ship struck a shallow patch under the cliffs and that you were able to come off in a short time,” he continued.

“You did make an immediate report and engaged the support and rescue services. Fortunately, no one onboard was injured. It is understandable that you may not have been aware of the extent of the damage until after some time, fortunately there was no further incident,” said His Worship.

“I’m satisfied it was not aggravated by alcohol and that there were no other ships put in danger by the progress of your ship. I am also taking into account you have been 31 years at sea with 16 years as captain and in this context you have been relieved of your command and this will affect your future work,” added His Worship Paul Copeland

Captain Iakovtsov was fined £1,000, or 28 days in prison if the fine was not paid within 24 hours.

He was released from custody after paying the fine and returned to Russia.

Commenting on the case, the technical manager for the MCA, Northern Ireland, Captain Bill Bennett, said: “I am not surprised at the extent of the damage. The captain is very lucky that the outcome was not more serious.”

“I am very concerned that he failed to have a lookout on watch with him and that the off-watch alarm and ECDIS alarms should have been switched on – this put his crew and his vessel at risk. Thankfully there was no pollution from this incident,” he continued.

“Keeping people safe is at the heart of what we do and we are committed to working with our partner agencies to protect those at sea by stopping dangerous practices and vessels making their way on the water, and to hold accountable those responsible,” added the technical manager.