Rena captain, navigator jailed

THE captain and navigation officer of container ship Rena which ran aground off the coast of New Zealand last year have each been jailed for seven months.

Mauro Balomaga, the captain of the container ship, and Leonil Relon also lost their name suppression when they appeared in the Tauranga District Court today for sentencing.

Both the captain and navigation officer pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to persons or property.

Tauranga District Court heard a summary of facts this morning. Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said the crew made a catalogue of errors while racing to the Port of Tauranga.

He said the ship cut corners and sailed hazardously close to other landmarks such as Bull Rocks and Arial Rocks and the captain and navigational officer tried to cover up their faults.

Crown solicitor Rob Ronayne said there were "substantial deviations'' from the approved passage plan without just cause.

Most seriously, he also said that Balomaga instructed Relon to later plot a false chart position at 2am on October 5 - 15 minutes before the Rena ran aground - so that it gave the appearance of the Rena passing clear of the Astrolabe Reef.

When interviewed on October 11, neither man mentioned falsifying the charts.

Balomaga also admitted a charge under the Resource Management Act of being the master of a ship from which harmful substances or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area, and also pleaded guilty to four charges under the Crimes Act of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Relon also pleaded guilty to three similar charges, which relate to altering ship documents after the grounding, and a charge under the Resource Management Act relating to the discharge of harmful substances and/or contaminants.

Each charge under the Crimes Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.


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