Pennine Cruisers is fined for overloading boats in Skipton

Skipton’s Pennine Cruisers has been ordered to pay £3,600 by magistrates after exceeding passenger numbers on its boats.

Its day trip boats, Sam and Leo, were allowed to carry 12 people - counted as anyone over one year old - but on two occasions, an extra passenger had been on board, Skipton magistrates heard on Friday.

The court heard that the company had been in breach of regulations even though on one of the occasions, the extra passenger was a baby, and in both instances no payment had been received.

The breaches - on July 31 and August 2 last year - were witnessed by a surveyor for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and followed repeated warnings to Pennine Cruisers that it must not exceed the 12-passenger limit.

Philip Crosbie, prosecuting for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said the company had received numerous warnings and visits and, in a letter to the agency, had indicated it was aware of the passenger limit.

He said on one occasion where a boat had been overloaded it had been skippered by an employee, but on the other, it was owner and director Ian Clarke who had been in charge.

Mr Crosbie added that there was no evidence to suggest that the boats were unsafe.

He stressed that the agency was not saying it was “an accident waiting to happen” but added that the relevant certification had not been in place.

Both the company and Clarke admitted two charges of using a vessel without a valid passenger ship safety certificate.

He told the court that the company was under “constant pressure” from families with young children to get onto the boats.

Joanna Mantel, for Pennine Cruisers, said on both occasions there had been no charge for the extra person and it had not been a deliberate attempt by the company to increase its revenue.

She said on the first occasion, the boat skipper had unfortunately misinterpreted the rules and allowed a family onto the boat with a young child, who had just turned one.

The second time, when Clarke had been skipper, there had been 13 passengers, including a number of small children, all of whom had gone on for free.

Ms Mantel said employees were frequently reminded of the regulations but it could cause friction with the public when queues had built up for one of the boats and when families with young children were told they would have to separate or move to the back of the line.

She said the company also had to rely on the honesty of people as to the age of their children.

All the company’s boats were regularly maintained and had weekly inspections and for Clarke, who had worked for the company after leaving school, before buying it in 1999, it was not only a lifestyle choice, but his whole life.

Magistrates, who told Clarke he had put members of the public at risk for exceeding his certificate, fined him £500 for each of the two charges and ordered costs of £2,500 and victims surcharge of £100.

There was no separate penalty for the charges against the company.

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