A FISHING boat captain who was twice caught flouting sea safety rules has been jailed over a crash with another vessel.

Craig Petre was skippering the Olivia Jean off the coast of Shoreham when it crashed into the smaller Peter Paul II, skippered by Paul Messenger.

The 32-year-old was going too fast for the conditions, where visibility had dropped to 100 metres.

On board the Olivia Jean heavy steel beams were not stowed properly and one beam struck the Peter Paul II.

Hove Crown Court heard how Petre was accused of putting profit ahead of safety on board, a claim he denied.

But Petre did admit endangering ships, structures, and individuals under the Merchant Shipping Act and was jailed for 66 weeks, just over 15 months.

It included failing to keep a proper watch over the vessel, failing to emit sound warnings for other boats, and travelling too fast in poor visibility.

The incident happened on April 4, 2020.

It was revealed he was also given a suspended sentence for a similar offence over a collision off Guernsey in the Channel Islands in July 2019 while captain of the Philomena.

James Leonard, prosecuting, said: “He has obtained his skipper certificates, but the vessel was not competently sailed that day, by some long measure.

“There was an absence of a proper look out, so speed then becomes even more important. It was risky sailing at that speed.

“The scallop derrick booms were already in a horizontal position, ready to fish before reaching the fishing grounds. What he was essentially doing was trying to maximise profit at the expense of safety.

“Quite how Paul Messenger escaped without injury was more a matter of luck than judgment, and quite a slice of luck at that.”

Fiona Clegg, defending, said her client is a father-of-four and his wife is expecting their fifth child.

She said Petre, of Beck Green Distington, Cumbria, is the sole breadwinner for the household and him being sent to prison may cause problems for their ability to pay their mortgage.

Ms Clegg said her client rejected the claim that profit and getting to the fishing grounds was more important than sea safety, but said: “He does accept he did fall short of what was required.”

His Honour Judge Jeremy Gold QC told Petre he was travelling too fast in poor conditions, without emitting sound signals and without maintaining a proper look out.

He said because of the previous similar offence, which put Petre in breach of a suspended sentence, only prison could be justified.

The investigation was carried out by the Regulatory Compliance Investigation Team for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Lead investigator Mark Cam said: “Petre failed to heed several important international safety regulations at the time of the collision.

“The Olivia Jean was travelling at an unsafe speed for the weather conditions and Petre failed to maintain a proper lookout for other vessels.

“As a result, serious damage was caused to another vessel and the master of that vessel was also put at risk of serious injury or death.

“These regulations are there to ensure the safety of those at sea and it is unacceptable to breach them. We will always investigate and prosecute where necessary those who disregard regulations and put lives at risk.”