BUNDABERG WHALE WATCHING: Ian Brookfield at Burnett Heads.
BUNDABERG WHALE WATCHING: Ian Brookfield at Burnett Heads.

Local vessel investigated by Maritime Safety Authority

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is currently investigating claims that the Emelie, a Bundaberg Whale Watching Vessel, was operated by an unlicensed person.

Ian Brookfield registered Bundaberg Whale Watching to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2017.

Speaking with the ABC, Mr Brookfield admitted he did not have the required certificates to drive a commercial vessel with passengers on board.

"In the eyes of the law if you don't have a piece of paper these days, it's not deemed to be official," he told the ABC.

"When you've got over 40 years' experience in vessel operation and your skipper doesn't turn up at the last minute, you make a business decision."

An AMSA spokesman said Maritime Safety Queensland reported the matter to AMSA on September 11. The vessel was detained by AMSA that day and prohibited from operation.

An AMSA spokesman said the Emelie had been released on October 10 after receiving confirmation that the actual owner of the vessel, not Mr Brookfield, had assumed operation of the Emelie with a qualified crew.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show Bundaberg Whale Watching was cancelled in mid-June this year.

Attempts from the NewsMail to contact Mr Brookfield yesterday were unsuccessful.

Bundaberg Whale Watching's history has been bumpy, last year it was involved in a spat with Gladstone Ports Corporation.

The contention centred around what Mr Brookfield called Bundaberg's only commercial wharf. The Port, however, said it was a public jetty.

Speaking with the NewsMail in October last year, Mr Brookfield said he was informed by the Port that he was not allowed to use signs to advertise his business on the jetty.

He said he used the site for passengers to embark and disembark from the boat.

A spokesman for the Gladstone Ports Corporation last year said "the public jetty is required to be accessible for the community to ensure all fishers and boaties have fair and safe use of the facilities".

Mr Brookfield said he had been told the marina was fully occupied.

However, Bundaberg Port Marina general manager Brett Hensler said he was open to other commercial operators working out of the venue as long as they had the relevant permits and insurance and aligned with the port business's goal of offering a quality service as "one of the best marinas on the east coast".