Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Two fishermen had to jump for their lives seconds before a 65,000-tonne container ship slammed into their boat in Port Phillip Bay, a court has heard. Brothers Robert and Luigi Corvetti had to dive from their runabout near Sandringham just before the 235-metre OCCL Sydney ploughed into it. The ship's pilot, Captain Peter McKeown, yesterday pleaded guilty to negligence over the October 2005 accident. Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard Capt McKeown, 59, was heading for Swanson Dock when he was confronted by hundreds of legally docked fishing boats, anchored in Port Phillip Bay for the peak snapper fishing season. As Capt McKeown tried to manoeuvre around the fishing boats, it struck the Corvettis' runabout, damaging its hull and wrecking the vessel. Prosecutor Peter Clarke told the court that Capt McKeown had failed to take evasive action or warn fishermen they were in danger."He decided to manoeuvre among the recreational vessels fishing at anchor near the transit-only zone," Mr Clarke said. "At no time did Capt McKeown exercise other options open to him, including signalling with the ship's whistle, navigating the Sydney east or west of the congregated fishing vessels, or bringing the Sydney to a halt while seeking the assistance of authorities." The court heard the brothers had to be rescued by nearby fishermen and were later forced to sell the fishing boat as a wreck. They have not fished in the bay since the incident. Capt McKeown's lawyer, Steven Grahame, said his client was Victoria's second-most-experienced ship pilot and had piloted thousands of ships in his 28-year career. "This incident was an aberration, a lapse, in Capt McKeown's career," Mr Grahame said. "(He) believed he had a passage through these recreational vessels. "He made a mistake." Capt McKeown, of Red Hill, yesterday pleaded guilty to one charge under the Marine Act of negligence, causing serious damage to a vessel or its cargo. Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg will sentence him today.