28 Jan 2015

Trawler runs aground in Otago Harbour

5:46 pm on 28 January 2015

A notorious fishing trawler ran aground last night in Otago Harbour on its final voyage to the wreckers.

The Melilla 201 at Port Chalmers.

The Melilla 201 at Port Chalmers. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The Melilla 201 had been tied up for almost two years after being seized by the Ministry for Primary Industries from its Korean owners.

The foreign-flagged vessel's captain and two other crew were convicted of illegally dumping fish, and the owner of the 49-year-old ship linked to human rights abuses.

Port Otago CEO Geoff Plunket said the Melilla 201 was finally leaving last night for scrapping in south-east Asia when its control system failed about halfway between Port Chalmers and the harbour heads, and it ran lightly aground.

Mr Plunket said no damage was done and it was easily refloated.

He said the boat was back at Port Chalmers awaiting clearance and Maritime New Zealand and the Otago Harbourmaster had been notified of the grounding.

The ship had been tied up in Dunedin for almost two years after being seized by the Government from its Korean-owners.

Foreign crews advocate Daren Coulston said the grounding was no surprise.

"The reason it was tied up was because the captain and others were convicted of fisheries offences," he said.

"The court ruled that the owner should be advertised for, which happened for six months, and then the boat lay around for another year, and basically it doesn't appear to be seaworthy."

The ship was just one rusting hulk among that have been operating in New Zealand's waters, Mr Coulston said.

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