Marine pilot, captain bag suspended sentences over collision

Gehan Sirimanne
Gehan Sirimanne

By Jite Eriabie  

A former ship captain and a marine pilot have each been handed four-month suspended sentences in connection with the collision between the vehicle carrier City of Rotterdam and a DFDS roll-on/roll-off passenger ferry on the River Humber in December 2015.

Gehan Sirimanne, a marine pilot who is now retired, and Ruslan Uromov, a former captain, were sentenced at Hull Crown Court last week after pleading guilty to charges of causing a collision, the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency reported.

Ruslan Uromov was charged with conduct endangering ships, structures or individuals, in violation of section 58(2) and (5) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. Gehan Sirimanne was charged with misconduct by pilot endangering ship, contrary to section 21 of the Pilotage Act 1987.

Both men pleaded guilty to the offenses and were sentenced to four months, suspended for 18 months. The pilot, Sirimanne, was also ordered to pay £45,000 in fines while Uromov was ordered to pay £750.

The incident occurred at 7 p.m. local time on December 3, 2015, after Sirimanne, who was then working as a marine pilot for Associated British Ports, boarded the car carrier City of Rotterdam at Immingham Dock. Sirimanne was due to navigate the Panama-registered car carrier along the River Humber to the mouth of the river, where full control was then to be handed over to Captain Urumov, who would take the vessel to sea.

Humber Vessel Tracking Service (VTS) monitored the City of Rotterdam track which showed that she was straying into the north side of the shipping channel and into the Hawke Anchorage.

Her passage also brought her into the track of vessels traveling west along the River Humber, including the DFDS car and passenger Primula Seaways which was traveling inbound along the channel. Despite alerts from VTS and the captain of the Primula Seaways, the City of Rotterdam continued its passage along the wrong side of the shipping lane, eventually colliding head-on with the ferry.

No injuries were reported, but both vessels sustained major damage.

“In passing sentence, Judge HHJ Richardson said this represented the destruction of their professional reputation as professional mariners which had been eradicated by this criminal act,” the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a press release.

Michael Groark, a surveyor in charge for the Maritime & Coastguard’s Hull office commented, “This shows that the rules are there for a reason. It was a serious collision which could have resulted in serious injury. Both of these men ignored several alerts warning them they were on the wrong track and put not only themselves but others using the channel correctly, at risk.”

During its investigation of the incident, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch determined that pilot error resulting from “relative motion illusion” was the likely cause of the collision.   

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