A FISHING boat captain has been ordered to pay almost £10,000 after his vessel smashed in a pier and almost sank.
Robert Trueman was in charge of the Grenaa Star - his privately owned boat which is registered in Hartlepool - when it struck the south pier in South Shields at 6.30am on December 17, 2013.
The badly-damaged vessel started taking in water, and had to be helped by two lifeboats.
Salvage experts from Tyne and Wear Marine and workers from the Port of Tyne were drafted in to help move the 60ft boat to a safe berth - just off the beach at nearby Littlehaven.
Trueman was taken to hospital with a head injury he sustained in the collision.
The stricken boat was grounded for four days after the collision before being re-floated four days later and towed to the former Readheads yard at Tyne Dock.
The vessel was attended by Officers from the Marine Unit of Northumbria Police.
Once on board they ascertained that Trueman had been alone in the wheelhouse with the two other crewmen on the vessel being below decks at the time of the collision.
Trueman was found in the wheelhouse and had a head injury which was bleeding, and there was blood on the wheelhouse instrument panel. Trueman said he had been thrown onto it on impact.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says the officer could smell alcohol and requested a breath test, but Trueman refused, saying that he was concerned about the vessel and crew.
The agency said he admitted that at the time of the collision that the vessel had been on autopilot.
When Trueman left the vessel two and a half hours after the collision he failed a breath test giving a reading of 58 microgrammes in 100 millilitres, with legal limit 35.
Then about five hours after the collision he provided a urine sample which found a reading of 65 microgrammes in 100 millilitres, the legal limit 107.
At a previous hearing at South Shields Magistrates’ Court, Judge Helen Cousins said the “aggravating” features of the case included Trueman drinking the evening before he set off from North Shields Fish Quay, bound for the North Sea fishing grounds.
Judge Cousins said: “There are serious aggravating features. There is the presence of alcohol.
“I note it is from the evening before but this would not be a mitigating factor in a drink and drive matter. There was a risk of injury to others and the defendant himself did suffer an injury.”
Trueman, of Rowell Street, in Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to keep a good lookout - as required by Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
He was fined £5,000, with costs of £4,536.18 and was also ordered to carry out 120 hours community service and to pay a £60 victim surcharge.
The Grenaa Star has now been scrapped.
David Fuller, principal fishing vessel surveyor at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “This was a serious avoidable incident.
“Over-dependence on autopilots is dangerous especially in confined waters, and in addition to ensure safety at sea it is essential to maintain a proper lookout at all times.”