The captain and navigation officer of the ill-fated cargo ship Rena have been sentenced to seven months behind bars in the Tauranga District Court this afternoon.
The captain of the container ship, Mauro Balomaga, and navigation officer Leonil Relon lost their name suppression when they appeared in the Tauranga District Court today for sentencing.
In late February Balomaga pleaded guilty to all charges against him, while Relon admitted all charges, except a Resource Management Act (RMA) charge on which he entered no plea.
Both men faced the same charges under the Maritime Transport Act for operating a vessel in a manner likely to cause danger, under the Resource Management Act for discharging a contaminant and three charges under the Crimes Act for altering ship documents.
The captain also faced an additional charge of altering ship documents.
The judge said: "This was an event unlike this country has ever seen."
In sentencing the judge took into account that the men are foreign nationals, that they have been away from their families for a long time, that they have been on remand for a long time and have met with tangata whenua as part of a restorative process.
ONE News reporter Kim Vinnell said the two Philippino men were supported by 15 people in court and many could be seen crying following the sentencing.
The Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga last October causing an environmental disaster.
In a statement released today Costamare, the commercial manager of the vessel, acknowledged the sentence and said it would continue to meet "its responsibilities, as their employer, to ensure their welfare and that of their families, as they complete their sentences".
"The Rena owners and our insurers continue to be closely involved in managing the response to the grounding, especially through the activities of our salvage and recovery teams.
"There are many complex legal, environmental and community issues still to be resolved from the grounding and we are committed to working with all affected parties to achieve a satisfactory conclusion."
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said it welcomes the sentence handed down today. Director Keith Manch said the two senior officers who were responsible for the navigation of the ship had breached basic principles of safe navigation.
Rena crew made 'basic errors'
The court was told today that the crew had not complied with "basic navigation practices" before the ship ran aground and that the ship had altered course during the day leading up to the grounding, with attempts made to cover it up.
The crown said Rena's navigation officer cut every possible corner and never plotted the vessel's actual location.
And when Astrolabe Reef did show up on the Rena's radar the captain's only response was to order a quick lookout, then assuming it was a false reading asked for more speed.
"The actions, or lack of actions, reveal a theme of fundamental incompetence," Rob Ronayne said.
After the grounding the crown said the pair changed navigation charts and lied to investigators for more than a month until a forensic examination of the Rena's GPS showed it had been tampered with.
"The creation of the falsehoods was deliberate and must have been planned," Ronayne said.
A Transport Accident Investigation Commission interim report suggested the Rena took several shortcuts in the hours before it hit the reef. There were discrepancies in the captain and second officer's statements.
The Crimes Act charges each carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.
The RMA charge has a maximum penalty of a fine of $300,000, or two years imprisonment and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.
The Maritime Transport Act offence carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.
MNZ has also charged the owner of the Rena, Greece-based Daina Shipping Co, under sections of the RMA which relate to the discharge of harmful substances from ships in the coastal marine area.
That charge carries a maximum fine of $600,000 and $10,000 for every day the offending continues. The first call on that matter is expected tomorrow.