Waitangi Day 2019

The Governor General of New Zealand, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy GNZM QSO, is the Honorary Patron of the NZ Company of Master Mariners.

On Waitangi Day (6 February 2019), the Company was represented at a reception at Government House Wellington by the Master, Captain E E Ewbank, and the Warden of the Christchurch Branch, Captain Darrell Daish.

The Master, Captain Ted Ewbank, with Her Excellency the Governor General.
Captain Darrell Daish and Captain Ted Ewbank with students of Scots College
at Government House, Wellington
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It’s been an active beginning to 2019 in terms of maritime casualties.  The phone at the Panama Marine Accident Investigation Department was likely ringing off the hook with three major incidents on Panama-flagged vessels in the first two days.  The first three weeks of the year have produced a wide range of serious casualties…and they are likely just the tip of the iceberg in terms of incidents and near misses.

The casualties begin…

These casualties started with the SINCERITY ACE,  a Panama-flagged car carrier which suffered a major fire in cargo spaces on 31 December 2018 in the North Pacific.  The vessel was subsequently abandoned with four known casualties and one crew member missing.

On January 1st/2nd, MSC ZOE, a Panama-flagged ultra large container vessel (ULCV) was enroute Bremerhaven, Germany.  During heavy weather, the vessel lost 290+ shipping containers overboard.  The containers have started washing up on German and Dutch beaches with significant pollution.

Also on January 2nd, 6 crew members from the MSC container ship MSC Mandy were kidnapped off the coast of Benin.  The Panama-flagged feeder vessel was on the way from Lome to Lagos when a reported 8-10 pirates boarded the vessel and left with 6 of 26 crew, possibly including the captain.

A fire aboard the YANTIAN EXPRESS, a 7500 TEU container vessel reportedly started in one container on deck on January 3rd and spread.  The subsequent blaze forced the crew of the German-flagged vessel to abandon ship to a responding tug boat.  The blaze was finally being brought under control a week later.  Yantian Express is reportedly making her way to Freeport in the Bahamas under her own power.

On the less serious side from the view of personal injury, the bulk vessel Anglo Alexandria (UK-flagged) grounded while downbound on the Mississippi River on January 5th.  While the vessel was refloated within 48 hours and there was no reported pollution, a queue of 50 in and outbound vessels had developed.

In the Black Sea off Turkey, VOLGO BALT 214 split in two and sank in heavy seas.  While 7 of the Panama-flagged cargo vessel ‘s crew were rescued by Turkish authorities, 6, including the captain, were lost at sea.

Hong Kong harbour was the site of an explosion onboard the tank vessel AUIAC FORTUNE on January 8th.  The Vietnam-flagged vessel was preparing to bunker when the explosion occurred.  At last report 1 crew member had perished with multiple still missing.

The Vanuatu-flagged cable layer STAR CENTURION was anchored in the Horsburgh OPL off Singapore on January 13th when the outbound Hong Kong-flagged tanker Antea collided with her.  The damage to Star Centurion was so severe that she capsized and sank soon after with all crew being rescued.

Back in the Black Sea on January 21st, Tanzania-flagged LPG tankers Candy and Maestro were conducting a ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of cargo in international waters.  During the transfer, a fire broke out, engulfing both vessels. The two vessels had a combined crew of 31 of which 19 were killed or are missing.

How do we learn from these incidents?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Casualty Investigation Code’s (CIC) objective is, “…a marine safety investigation, as defined in this Code, is an investigation conducted with the objective of preventing marine casualties and marine incidents in the future.”  In short, the goal is for flag states and the maritime industry as a whole to learn from incidents, identifying opportunities for improvement and best practices.

Unfortunately, 75% of the time according to Allianz Global, we find that the cause of these incidents are attributed to human error.  “Human error” potentially involves all the different processes in shipping in which humans play a role – navigation, engineering, ship design, vessel management, shipping clerks, regulatory agencies, flag state.  Everyone from the CEO down to the entry ratings in a shipping company is part of the human element.  Everyone from the secretary of the IMO down to flag state and class inspectors is part of the human element.  And all parts of the human element have the capability for error.

But what is human error? LACK OF EXPERIENCE!

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Maritime Societies’ Annual Dinner

The Auckland Branch of the Company was well represented at the Maritime Societies’ Annual Dinner, held at the Northern Club on 7 December, when twelve Master Mariners and their partners/wives attended with 50 others.

During the course of the evening, the Warden of the Auckland Branch, Captain Chris Barradale, presented membership certificates to master mariners Holly and David Clayton. Holly is employed by Ports of Auckland Ltd and husband David is currently serving as C/O of MV Buffalo working around the NZ coast.

The guest speaker was Commander Lisa Hunn BSc RNZN, Commanding Officer of HMNZS TE MANA who spoke well of her time during the annual Exercise RIMPAC when the ship won the “Top Gun” trophy competed for by 14 nations.

David and Holly with the evening’s Guest of Honour, Commander Lisa Hunn RNZN (Commanding Officer HMNZS TE MANA)

David Clayton addresses the guests

Warden, Capt Chris Barradale presents membership certificate to David Clayton while Holly Clayton looks on.


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Auckland Branch Calendar 2019

2019 UPCOMING EVENTS (Auckland Branch Meetings)

                    Committee Meeting                    General Meetings

Monday 4th February                Thursday 7th February

Monday 8th April                     Thursday 11th April

Monday 10th June                    Thursday AGM 13 June

Monday 5th August                  Saturday 10th August Ladies Lunch

Monday 7th October                 Thursday 10th October

Monday 2 December                DTBA Maritime Dinner

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SMOKE SIGNALS – Michael Grey Lloyds List

SHIPPING has often been described as an industry that operates “on the frontier”, which could be taken to mean there are always many hostile tribes out there, which bear it no goodwill.

Anticipating where the trouble will flare up next may be thought of as an essential skill in the experienced frontiersman, who, in the best Westerns, was always alert to smoke signals or other signs of danger.

For the professional master, exposure to criminal or civil sanctions has always been the downside of the job, inextricably part of the responsibilities that come with the ship they command.

But in recent years, this risk has been greatly increased along with port state control, which for better or worse, has enabled anyone with a bit of authority to march on board a ship and throw a lot of weight around. Time in port, once a place to perhaps relax a little after a stormy sea passage, is often a place of tension and one of perpetual inspection.

It is also threatening to become a whole lot worse, with coastal states, international regulations and local bylaws, all combining to make the air cleaner and the sea free from harmful alien species which might be transported around in ballast water. The charges for which a master may end up in court are multiplying fast.

There are plenty of smoke signals to be seen.

This month the master of P&O cruiseship Azura will find out whether charges he faced at the Criminal Court of Marseilles for burning non-compliant fuel will stand.

In theory, he and the company face heavy financial penalties with up to a year’s custody for the master, after it was discovered that a local sulphur limit of 1.5% was breached, the ship having bunkered in Spain with 1.68% sulphur fuel. It is regarded as something of a “test case”, but any criminal record for any shipmaster is a very heavy penalty, that is magnified hugely by the demands of his profession to travel unhindered.

There is already a growing number of cases of ships that have been detained, after contraventions of emission regulations have been discovered. Even more sinister, there have been warnings that bogus “environmental inspectors” have been plying their trade on certain Black Sea waterfronts, looking to make some easy money.

Anyone with a little common sense may wonder why it is the master of a ship, who probably has limited exposure to the contents of the bunker tanks, or indeed the operation of the ballast management systems, who would be the person dragged into court concerning any alleged infraction. Nothing new about this, of course.

Think back to those infamous “Perben” court cases in France, where masters found themselves fined and given criminal records, after an overflying aircraft had photographed a ship that appeared suspiciously near what may have been an oil slick on the sea. No other corroboration was needed.

A very experienced retired master of my acquaintance tells of a nasty time he experienced in a Spanish port after his second engineer, who did not speak English very well, made an innocent mistake with the oil record book and suggested in error that sludge had been discharged overside. Only the helpful intervention of a classification society surveyor saved the master from a court appearance.

But all around the world, the authorities are anticipating the 2020 sulphur cap and sharpening their investigative powers. And it is shipmasters who stand to be out there, “on the frontier”, when these new powers are exercised.

Corrupt authorities

They hope that justice and fairness may be watchwords in this new environmental regime, but one does not imagine they are counting on this. In too many parts of the world, it will be regarded by corrupt authorities as just another opportunity to make some money.

But even in places where normally the authorities will be scrupulous regarding their regulatory powers, there are unanswered questions.

There is a presumption of tremendous precision about the performance of environmental equipment, along with a largely misplaced belief that the blended fuels that are taken on board are formulated to the standards that it says on the tin.

Scarcely a week elapses without some P&I club warning about horrible things somebody has managed to tip into a tank of ship’s fuel, whether it is cutter stock, shale, or just the odd tonne or two of chemicals they wanted to get rid of.

The clubs are chiefly warning about the harm it can do to the ship, or the machinery, but is this the sort of behaviour that provides the master with confidence that the sample taken by the inspector will come back from the laboratory smelling of roses and fulfilling all the environmental criteria?

It has occurred to me from time to time that some friendly agency ought to be providing masters with some sort of global analysis of prosecution risk.

Smoke signals for the 21st century, they could be much like the old Admiralty Sailing Directions also known as Pilots, which would warn mariners of poor holding ground, or other local navigational hazards. It might grade the country for its corruption — an index may be a useful indicator — or the propensity of its courts to deal with visiting masters in an unjust manner. A colour code would provide ease of use.

The problem, in these politically correct days, is that nobody would be sufficiently brave to publish such advice. Maybe a seafarer union would take it on board.

“Sailor, beware of the Bight of Benin…” began an old sailing ship shanty, which nobody would dare to recite these days.


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There are six classes of Membership of the NZCMM:

Ordinary Membership – the holder of a certificate of competency as Master Mariner (Foreign Going) or an equivalent grade recognised by the Executive Council, issued by a properly constituted authority, or an RNZN Seaman Officer who has held seagoing command of a major NZ warship.

Country Membership – any person who qualifies as an Ordinary Member, but does not reside in a port at which a Branch of the Company has been established, may join any other Branch as a Country Member at a reduced subscription. Country members shall be entitled to all the rights of Ordinary Members.

Honorary Membership – any Branch, subject to the prior formal approval of the Executive Council, may invite any person closely connected with the Company or with the seafaring community or who has provided or is providing a service either to the Company as a whole or to the Branch, to become an Honorary Member.

Life Membership – this accolade may be conferred on any Ordinary or Country Member of the Company by Members of the Company in general meeting in recognition of outstanding services rendered to the Company, provided that the proposal is made with the precedent approval of the Executive Council. The number of Life Members of the Company shall from time to time be in the discretion of the Executive Council. Life Members shall be entitled to all the rights of Ordinary Members.

Associate Membership – the holder of a certificate of competency as Second or First Mate (Foreign Going) may apply for Associate Membership of the Company. Associate Members shall have the same voting rights as Ordinary Members.

Student Membership – any student of nautical studies – prior to obtaining a certificate of “Officer of the Watch” – can apply for this membership. This member shall have no voting rights, but will be accepted for Associate Membership once certificated, and then the same voting rights as for Ordinary Members will apply.

Associate of the Branch – any Branch may invite any person with an honourable record and associated with the Branch or with matters maritime and who wishes to associate him or herself with the activities of the Branch, to become an Associate of the Branch.

This posting is extracted from the Rules of the Company which can be found here.

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On Wednesday 14 November at the Bolton Hotel, twenty four members, wives, partners and guests sat down to the Branch’s end of year function.

With crackers and party hats there was a Christmas spirit which added to the convivial atmosphere.

As usual, the three course menu was excellent and so far the feedback from those who attended has been very positive.

In closing the event, Warden Eric Good wished everyone a happy Christmas and made mention of the forthcoming sale of the book written and published by our recently deceased member, Tim Nicol.

Before the end of the month, “Sunrise to Sunset”, an Illustrated History of New Zealand Lighthouses will be available in Paper Plus and WhitCoulls shops.

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The cement carrier WESTPORT which traded around the New Zealand coast for many years and is now now called FJORDVIK. Unfortunately she missed the entrance to the harbour of Helquvik, Iceland on 2 November 2018 and has ended up on the beach. It is reported that there was a pilot a pilot on board. Maybe BRM wasn’t fully operational or the shared mental model had language problems.

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Viewpoint from Lloyds List              25 Oct 2018 Michael Grey

ISN’T it time that society sorted out the realistic responsibilities of a master?

With the master’s responsibility increased, his authority constrained and his civil and criminal liabilities multiplying apace, the chances of a master managing to complete his seagoing career without ending up with a custodial sentence seem to be reducing apace.

This was brought to the fore recently, when the mainstream media surprisingly reported a case of environmental crime being held in the Criminal Court of Marseilles.

The master and operators of P&O’s cruiseship Azura were charged with what amounts to atmospheric pollution, with the fuel being burned allegedly exceeding the local sulphur limit. The verdict will be given next month.

Nobody outside the environs of the French port would probably have noticed the case if it had been anything other than a huge cruiseship which had been so charged.

It is hard to think of the master and owners of a tanker discharging at Fos, or an anonymous bulk carrier, hitting any sort of headlines.

In the event, the matter assumed something of a technicality — a matter of 0.18% sulphur over the limits prescribed of 1.68%. It may also hinge on whether this local limit is only supposed to apply to regular traders, as opposed to occasional callers at the port.

But this case ought to be seen more for its principles and the sheer unmitigated nonsense of subjecting the master of a ship to a criminal charge on account of the chemical composition of the contents of the bunker tanks.

Doubtless the inhabitants of the French port, who probably resent the sheer volume of cruise passengers swarming ashore, will hail the local law as a blow for fresh air and fewer crowds.

But just consider the consequences of every port producing its own criteria for atmospheric emissions. And almost certainly, such provisions will be regarded as a useful new revenue stream, as hapless mariners bring their vessels into port unaware that their ship’s exhalations may breach port limits.

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Wellington Branch – October Meeting

The fourteen members  who attended the lunch meeting today would have been more than just entertained by speaker Chris King, past Chairman of the Russian Convoy Club.

Chris’s talk about his real life experiences when he sailed on a corvette (HMS Bluebell) protecting merchant ship convoys from the UK to the north Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel was a tale of fortitude and endurance under extreme weather conditions in very primitive shipboard surroundings.

The ships carrying war materiel to Russian allies, were formed into convoys to make, according to Winston Churchill, “ the worst journey in the world “. 

Supporting pictures clearly illustrated how protection was given to the merchant ships by the surrounding warships. The effect of sub-zero temperatures in covering vessels superstructures with ever thickening ice. The exposure of those in these prevailing weather conditions  having to navigate in open bridges. The weather was constantly atrocious.

There were constant aircraft and U Boat attacks from bases in occupied Norway. Dependent on the time of year and the ice-line the convoy went north or south of Iceland and Bear Island. Inevitably the loss of lives and vessels bore heavily on the minds of those who survived this lesser publicized campaign.

It was interesting to hear how, depending on the destination port, how seafarers were received by the locals. In Murmansk a suspicious reception contrasted with the very welcome reaction experienced in Archangel.

Chris’s talk was delivered expertly and at times with emotion. The voyage after he left her “Bluebell” was sunk.

In a world where superlative adjectives are slowly being devalued, at over 96 years old Chris represents as we know it, a man of awesome experience and a real legend.


At a committee meeting held after to-days gathering it was confirmed that our end of year Christmas Lunch will be held at the Bolton on Wednesday 14th November.

Wives, partners and friends all welcome. Further details will be circulated later this month.

Ken Watt


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