[October 15, 2011]There were claims today that the Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef because someone on board deliberately changed its course.
One expert 3 News spoke to said the ship used only one navigational aid - a beacon around 20 kilometres away, and never checked its own charts because if it had it would have been obvious it was on a collision course.
Marine accident specialist John Riding says the Rena is not there because of bad luck, but because of bad decision making.
Mr Riding believes a massive error in navigation means the course of the boat was deliberately changed long before it hit the Astrolabe.
He says about an hour from the port of Tauranga the Rena’s radar picked up a signal from the port's entry beacon.
It then changed course, slowly turning towards the beacon. The new route set a collision course with the reef.
“It appears to me that if he'd looked at the chart it would have been obvious what would happen,” says Mr Riding. “We are genuinely talking about the ‘ABCs’ of navigation, these are the basics that have gone wrong.”
All ships must eventually line up with the entry beacon where a pilot boards the ship to help guide it safely into the port.
3 news understands the Rena was meant to meet its pilot at 3.30am that morning. It hit the reef at 2.15, still on schedule to meet that deadline.
Port of Tauranga CEO Mark Carins says if ships miss their rendezvous time they simply do not come in to port.
“We won't risk the safety on that, so if they miss the window, they miss the window, and depending on the size of the ship they would have to wait for a few hours.”
But waiting at sea with a fully laden ship is expensive. Even the government is questioning whether the Rena was racing to get into Tauranga.
Environment Minister Nick Smith says it appears from the charts that they were in a rush to get to port.
“[They] went full bore, cut the corner and hit the reef and there's a proper inquiry that needs to take place to confirm that course of events.”
Mr Riding says every ship is under pressure to arrive on time, otherwise it costs money.
“The master's job is to make sure you do it safely. Every master has that on his shoulders.”