French luxury company Ponant has been ordered to pay NZ$70,000 in fines after L’Austral entered into a prohibited zone in the remote New Zealand Subantarctic Islands early last year.

The ships’ captain, Regis Daumesnil was also fined $30,000 by the Wellington District Court after New Zealand’s Department of Conservation and Maritime brought charges against the company.

Daumesnil pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary danger or risk to the people on board under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 after he steered the ship into a 300m exclusion zone around the islands.

L’Austral was carrying 356 passengers on January 9, 2017 when it arrived at the Snares Islands and entered the restricted zone. The stern of the ship grounded on an uncharted rock 220 metres from shore and the GPS positions showed that at the time the vessel was grounded, it was being navigated without following any passage plan.

The Department of Conservation South Island operations director Aaron Fleming told the Otago Daily Times it was “pure good luck we did not have a potential environment disaster”.

“The Snares Islands are one of the jewels of our conservation estate and protected as a Unesco World Heritage site.

“More than 5 million birds, as well as sea lions, and whales breed there,” Mr Fleming said.

At the time of publication, Cruise Passenger was still awaiting a comment from Ponant’s head office in Marseille.