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Company slapped with $54k fine after broken handrail led to man falling off ship

A Singapore-based shipping company has been slapped with a $54,000 fine after a broken handrail led to a stevedore falling eight metres onto a concrete wharf.

The injured stevedore fell from the beam above the ladder. Source: Maritime New Zealand

When the 28-year-old fell, he shattered bones in his legs and arms, fractured his vertebrae and suffered severe internal injuries. He was saved from any serious head injuries by his helmet and his backpack riding up under his head as he fell.

The man spent 56 days in hospital and underwent numerous surgeries, but his injuries will affect him for the rest of his life.

Tauranga District Council fined China Navigation Company PTE Limited $24,000 and ordered it to pay $30,000 in reparations, according to Maritime New Zealand.

Maritime NZ central region compliance manager Michael-Paul Abbott said poor maintenance and poor communication led to the incident, where the man fell eight-metres onto a concrete wharf after a handrail broke on the log carrier, Pakhoi, in December 2017.

The company pleaded guilty to charges under the Maritime Transport Act (MTA), which prohibits “dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products”.

"Poor maintenance and poor communication caused an incident that nearly killed this man,” Mr Abbott said in a statement today.

"Shipping companies must ensure they carry out maintenance correctly and if there are any risks from using equipment on the ship they must tell people using the ship so they can protect themselves.

"Shipping companies and other employers will be held to account if they operate a ship in a way that risks injuring or endangering workers and other people in New Zealand."

Maritime NZ also charged the injured man’s employer, Mount Maunganui stevedoring company, ISO Limited, under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA).

The action against ISO has been resolved by Maritime NZ agreeing to an enforceable undertaking with ISO to make significant investments into various programmes aimed at improving health and safety for stevedores at work.

The court heard the case on May 20 and has today issued its decision.