Fishing vessel master pleads guilty to sleeping while underway

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii:

(HONOLULU) (Oct. 27) — Kevin Lam, age 43, a resident of Oahu, pled guilty to eight charges of operating a commercial fishing vessel in a grossly negligent manner on Friday, Oct. 24, and received a sentence of one-year probation and 60 hours of community service from Magistrate Judge Barry M. Kurren. The offenses occurred from Sept. 7 through 14, 2011, one on each day. During the probationary period, Lam may not serve as master or person in charge of any commercial vessel. Further, in order to serve as master of any commercial vessel in the future, defendant Lam must attend Coast Guard-approved training.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States attorney for Hawaii, said that according to information produced in court, on multiple occasions, Lam, while master of the commercial fishing vessel the Lady Ann Margaret, slept for extended periods of time while the vessel was underway, with no other lookout or helmsman on watch. The prosecution alleged that Lam’s behavior risked the lives not only of his crew and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observer on board, but also other mariners at sea.

Kurren remarked to Lam, "You are pretty fortunate that this didn't result in some catastrophe." Capt. Shannon Gilreath, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, supported the observation, saying, “Mariners who intentionally sleep while on watch or abandon the wheelhouse after setting the helm on autopilot put the lives of their crews and other mariners at risk.”

The Coast Guard previously assessed a civil penalty of $2,500 against Lam within the year preceding the charged offenses for negligent operation of his vessel because he was asleep with no other watch. During that incident Lam’s vessel actually collided with another vessel.

This case was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigating Service (CGIS). Assistant United States Attorney Thomas J. Brady and Special Assistant United States Attorney Angela A. Cook prosecuted this case.

By Professional Mariner Staff