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No jail for yacht captain who brought too many passengers on Shannon cruise

No jail for yacht captain who brought too many passengers on Shannon cruise

A YACHT captain has been spared a jail sentence and was fined €1,000 after a court heard his boat was in danger of capsizing by carrying too many passengers on a Shannon cruise.

Justin Kennedy, 58, with an address at Anna Villa, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, pleaded guilty to navigating or operating a vessel called the Romaris in a manner that was dangerous, on the Shannon, near Athlone, Co. Westmeath on June 9 last year. He also admitted not having a passenger ship certificate.

The charges were under the Maritime Safety Act and the Merchant Shipping Act with each offence carrying maximum €5,000 fines as well as sentences of up to six months.

Captain Nicholas Cantwell of the Marine Survey Office, which is part of the Department of Transport, told Judge John Brennan at Dublin District Court that on June 10 last year he received an anonymous complaint that 27 passengers had been on the Romaris boat the day before.

He agreed with prosecuting counsel Aoife O'Leary that the vessel is classified as a passenger boat which can carry no more than 12 passengers and three crew, 15 in total. To carry more than that the vessel has to be classified as a passenger ship which also requires higher fire safety levels. The Romaris was not a certified ship.

During the investigation Mr Kennedy admitted that he had carried 23 passengers and he was was remorseful, Mr Cantwell said. The official also said that the boat did not have markings on the side as required to indicate the number of passengers it can carry.

The passengers would not have been aware of the limit.

Mr Cantwell said that it was dangerous because the boat had almost twice its certified compliment and that raised stability issues and if all the passengers had gone to one side it could not be guaranteed that it "would remain upright". The judge also noted that it could have also caused a visibility issue in relation to steering.

If there was a fire the crew would not have had the training to deal with 23 passengers and its ability to provide assistance to another vessel in trouble would have been compromised by the number of people already on board, the witness said.

Judge Brennan noted that Kennedy had no prior convictions.

Mr Cantwell agreed with defence solicitor Aine Flynn that Kennedy was co-operative, has had his boat licence since 2014 and there were no incidents before or since.

He agreed that Kennedy had explained to him that five minutes before he was about to set sail with seven passengers, four others arrived and asked could they join. He agreed but he was then asked could he be bring their friends as well and he allowed them.

They spent about an hour on the water without incident, the court was told.

The judge heard that at the time Kennedy was under some personal pressure that affected his judgement. Mr Cantwell agreed that the passengers would not have noticed the boat was over-loaded.

He also agreed that since then Kennedy has the passenger limit stated on the side of the boat.

In pleas for leniency, Ms Flynn said that Kennedy had previously been involved in the construction industry but the down-turn had not been kind to him.

He had been involved in boating on recreational basis for a number of years and his new business in doing well.

He had not taken the passengers to save money, the solicitor said. He had just heard that his wife had been told she would have to repay a large sum in social welfare which later transpired to be incorrect.

Judge Brennan said the regulations were there to prevent tragedies in the sea or on inland waters and he noted the problems that could have been caused by carrying to many passengers on Kennedy’s boat. He said the legislation has to be upheld rigorously.

Fining him, he took into account the guilty plea which was entered at an early stage, his co-operation and that he has no prior criminal convictions. He also said that he would not order him to pay costs.