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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 16:57 GMT
Ferry's actions 'perfectly safe'
Crescent Beaune
There was no lookout on duty on the Crescent Beaune
A ferry officer has told a court that when he passed a yacht which sank off the Isle of Wight causing the death of its crew it was "absolutely safe".

Three sailors died when Ouzo vanished in the early hours of 21 August 2006.

Michael Hubble, 62, of Kent, officer of the watch on a P&O ferry that night, denies three counts of manslaughter.

He told Winchester Crown Court on Thursday that he had manoeuvred the ferry "only to give the yacht room" and that there was no "emergency".

Mr Hubble said he heard the lookout Dave Smith, who was on the bridge with him, tell him he saw lights off the starboard bow at 0107 GMT, as the ferry steamed at 21 knots on 21 August last year.

The jury heard he felt the lookout's voice "was not urgent" and Mr Hubble left the chart room to have a look.

He added that he "saw the lights and went to the steering console to alter the ferry to port".

I was perfectly happy that that vessel was absolutely safe
Ferry officer Michael Hubble

Mr Hubble said he put the ferry back to starboard because he was "worried he might hit it with the stern of the ship as it came out".

"I watched the target which started to pass down the starboard side," he said.

He went on to say he lost sight of the vessel because of light pollution from the ship and the change of course.

Mr Hubble told defence barrister Richard Barraclough QC: "I was perfectly happy that that vessel was absolutely safe. I had no doubt to the safety of that vessel," Mr Hubble replied.

The three men who died - Jason Downer, Rupert Saunders and James Meaby
Left to right - Jason Downer, Rupert Saunders and James Meaby all died

Earlier, the captain of the Crescent Beaune, Alistair Crichton, admitted to the jury that he had not been on the bridge at that time and had broken the law by not having a lookout on duty.

The court heard that data analysis from the maritime college in South Tyneside, showed that the oil tanker and the 25ft (7.6m) Ouzo would have reached the same point at 0140 BST.

Prosecutors claim the ferry narrowly missed or collided with the yacht Ouzo.

Mr Hubble, of Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, denies manslaughter through gross negligence and engaging in conduct likely to cause death or serious injury.

James Meaby and Rupert Saunders, both 36 and from Tooting, south London, and Jason Downer, 35, from Kent, all drowned when their yacht was lost.

The trial continues.

Yacht deaths 'caused' by tanker
21 Nov 07 |  Hampshire
Sailors 'had 99% survival chance'
09 Nov 07 |  Hampshire
Trial jury visits bridge of ferry
08 Nov 07 |  Hampshire
P&O captain 'would have stopped'
05 Nov 07 |  Hampshire
Ferry 'near miss' was with yacht
30 Oct 07 |  Hampshire
Ferry officer 'ignored yachtsmen'
29 Oct 07 |  Hampshire

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