Vessel master fined after smashing into Sheringham Shoal wind farm turbine and injuring passengers

Sheringham Shoal wind farm. Picture: Ian Burt Sheringham Shoal wind farm. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
7:08 PM

The master of a vessel has been ordered to pay £3,000 after smashing into an off-shore wind turbine in the dark off Sheringham, injuring his passengers and badly damaging the boat.

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A court heard that Geoffrey Whinfrey, master of the support vessel Island Panther, relied on turbine tower safety lights to steer a course through Sheringham Shoal wind farm and hit an unlit tower head-on in driving rain, gusting winds and rough seas.

Whinfrey and his fellow crewman were propelled forward and hit the control consul, while people below were flung across the passenger cabin.

Some of those on board had to be taken to hospital with minor injuries after the accident, on November 21 2012.

Whinfrey pleaded guilty to breaches of maritime collision regulations when he appeared at Southampton Magistrates’ Court today.

He had been asked by the wind farm operator - Scira Offshore Energy Ltd - to take off-duty employees ashore because of worsening weather conditions. The wind was gusting up to 45mph.

Passage plans had not been completed for any part of the journey. Whinfrey tried to navigate through the wind farm using the safety lights on the wind turbine towers, against company policy.

He failed to notice that one of the turbine towers’ lights was unlit and hit it at about 12 knots (14 mph).

An investigation determined that the accident happened because Whinfrey was relying solely on the safety lights and didn’t make good use of the lookout and navigation equipment on board.

The court fined him £1,000, plus £2,000 in costs.

At the time of the accident the EDP reported that five people on board the boat had suffered minor injuries.

Cromer’s offshore lifeboat, Lester, went to their aid, with a doctor on board.

One patient was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn with a head and wrist injury.

The four other casualties were assessed by the doctor and made their own way to the hospital.

Speaking after the court case, Capt Peter Maynard, MCA Surveyor based at the Norwich Marine Office, said: “Mr Whinfrey relied heavily on the lights of the turbine towers to navigate through the wind farm against company policy.

“He displayed poor seamanship by failing to keep a proper lookout by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances. It was very lucky that no one was seriously hurt.”

8 comments

  • If you stick poles in the sea, eventually someone will bump into them!

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    The man on the Clapham Omnibus

    Friday, September 5, 2014

  • Judging by the picture it didn't do much damage.

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    backwoodsman

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Even more reason to stop relying on dirty fossil fuels then NickL.

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    HappisburghHarry

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • You ain't seen nothing yet. The people who run our congested shipping lanes are increasingly concerned at the proliferation of huge wind schemes close to shipping channels and estuary mouths. Turbines also cause radar ghost images. No doubt we will see much hand-wringing and blame shifting when a massive LPG or oil tanker sails into one of these monstrosities.

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    NickL

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Why was the turbine not lit? Seems to me these wind farm operators do not operate to anything like the strict standards required of the offshore petrocarbons industry and are fly. Take the court order slapped on the fishermen in the Wash to prevent them fishing whilst surveying for a new wind farm went on. I spoke to and offshore surveyor of nearly 40 years experience and they had never encountered an oil or gas company or contractor using a court order in such a way-they negotiate and compensate. Obviously windfarm companies like the subsidies but dont want to treat others fairly or have strict safety regulations.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Sounds like Alice in Wonderland as he failed to see the unlit tower in the dark. Also failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to make proper use of the vessels navigation equipment.. Should have his Masters certificate withdrawn apart from the fine of £1000. Plus costs of two thousand. No doubt those injured will now sue for injuries sustained

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    Claire Voyant

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Helicopter pilots have up-to-date maps that show exactly where wind farms are located, but then they also carefully plan each journeys and wouldn't be flying in those type of conditions. Clearly a trolling keyboard warrior, like Windless, wouldn't care about those kind of details though.

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    HappisburghHarry

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • And had this been a helicopter, in poor weather?????????????? Also, who, exactly, was responsible for the failed light? Surely not the vessel master???? All wind energy = Greeniot lunacy

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    Windless

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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