NATION

No Training Prior To Kiro’s Departure

  An officer with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces naval division told a general court martial yesterday that he did not undergo any training to familiarise himself with navigation
29 Jun 2018 10:46
No Training Prior To Kiro’s Departure

 

An officer with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces naval division told a general court martial yesterday that he did not undergo any training to familiarise himself with navigation equipment on a vessel before it ran aground outside Suva Harbour.

Ensign Mike Brown further told the court martial panel that he had only been on the RFNS Kiro a week prior to the fateful journey.

He maintained that he went on the trip as a substitute officer and that prior to their departure from Walu Bay a machinery check was done and all equipment on board were in satisfactory condition.

Ensign Brown’s testimony came before he and three other officers, including the commanding officer of the RFNS Kiro, were convicted after being charged in connection with the vessel running aground on Belcher Rock near Makuluva Island and Nukulau Island in July 2016.

Charged alongside Ensign Brown and convicted yesterday were RFNS Kiro Commanding Officer Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga, its Executive Officer Lieutenant Ben Salacakau and maritime commander Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka.

Ensign Brown told the court martial panel members that the visibility early on July 14, 2016, was about five nautical miles and he could not remember the speed at which the RFNS Kiro was travelling when it ran aground. They left RFNS Stanley Brown naval base at 4am bound for Natovi Jetty.

It was revealed that Ensign Brown plotted three courses on the chart and the fix which was plotted by Ensign Brown between 5.22am and 5.45am directly led to the ship’s grounding on Belcher Rock.

The court heard that Lieutenant Cikaitoga was aware that Ensign Brown had changed courses during the trip because they were trying to regain track.

The Commanding Officer of RFNS Kiro faces three charges of neglecting to perform a duty.

Prosecution alleged that he neglected to perform his duty by giving approval to Ensign Brown to proceed with the initial plan without paying attention to the requirements of the safety clearance regulation. Furthermore, it is alleged, he failed to fill his Commanding Officer’s Night Order Book which allowed the RFNS Kiro to sail on that morning without orders.

The book would have directed the officers on watch to consult the Commanding Officer at every instance the ship changed course.

The three occasions that Ensign Brown altered the ship’s course Lieutenant Cikaitoga was never consulted because of the absence of specific orders in the Commanding Officer’s Night Order Book.

Prosecutor Captain Aisea Paka clarified that Ensign Brown prepared the initial navigational course plan for the ship which was confirmed by Lieutenant Cikaitoga, who was then asked if he had checked the navigational chart to see that it was clear from hazardous areas. Lieutenant Cikaitoga admitted that he did not check and that he overlooked it. He said he normally filled the Night Order Book straight after departure because that was when they would find out the weather for that day. However, he failed to fill the book on that day and overlooked it.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Salacakau, as Executive Officer on board RFNS Kiro on the day of the incident, failed to ensure that the Night Order Book was given to the Commanding Officer. The Book is crucial because it contains instructions and orders to the officer on watch.

Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka is charged with failing to submit a report to the Navy Headquarters on the Operational Sea Check of the RFNS Kiro.

On July 14, 2016, Lieutenant Commander Tuilevuka marched into the Republic of Fiji Military Force’s Black Rock Camp in preparation for a tour of duty with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). He failed to submit the report to HQ Navy prior to marching in at Blackrock.

The document would have notified HQ Navy on the status of the ship and its crew.

The case has been adjourned to July 6, 2018 for mitigation.

The full bench comprises the President of the Court Martial Commander Netani Sukanaivalu, Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh, Lieutenant Commander Enele Ma’afu, Lt. Commander Vakararawa, Major Valu Raumakita and Lieutenant Colonel Jone Tavainavesi.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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