I agree, 30 minutes is way too long without a lookout particularly near the coast when fishing boats are about. F/Vs often don’t follow the rules. The mate should be and almost certainly will be held accountable.
But I don’t think a reluctance to punish mariners for accidents is a significant problem.
I kept a watch forward because I didn’t want to hit someone, not because I was worried about the legal consequences.
I’m with Ombugge on this one. When you run into something you have some accountability. There’s not enough information here to pass judgement.
To Kennebec’s point regarding a lookout, the crews have gotten smaller (in number) and work hours quickly evaporate in port. Three docks in two days, bunkers and stores, you’re toast. I’m not saying it justifies a lapsed lookout but…
Several years ago a U.S. flagged ship collided with a fishing boat killing some crew members on the boat. The mate on the ship watched as the F/V crossed in front of the ship and then, after the F/V had crossed, the mate turned to the chart table assuming the F/V would maintain course and speed. But the boat reversed course and there was a collision.
Fishing boats sometimes behave unpredictably. I tell the mates that if there are fishing boats about they need to be monitored practically continuously unless or until there is no possibility of a collision.
Way back more years than I want to remember I joined a tanker in Singapore after travelling for more than 36 hours from a country other than my own. I joined as second mate replacing a guy who had a nervous breakdown who had left before I joined. My immediate task was planning the impending voyage then mercifully for those around me getting a shower after a number of hours on an unconditioned bridge.
The master had a cadet posted as a lookout for every afternoon while I corrected the worldwide outfit of charts as we sailed on a transpacific voyage. I don’t think we saw another ship once clear of Singapore but that was before satellite navigation.
The ability to provide that sort of cover is not available to mariners today.