Master’s Report to 2007 AGM

Master’s Report – AGM August 2007

It is with pleasure that I submit my report for the past 12 months.

Our membership as at 31 July is 248.

This includes 8 life members
Captain Max Deane   Auckland Editor Retired Union Co
Captain Tony Gates   Past Warden Retired British India
Captain John Twoomy  Past Warden Retired Port Employers
Captain Edgar Boyack  Retired Marine Department
Captain Jack Dickinson  Retired Merchant Service Guild
Captain Jim Glyde   Past Warden & General Secretary
Captain Jim Varney   Retired Auckland Harbourmaster
Captain Fred Kelner   Past Warden Retired Union Company

And 9 Honorary Members
Rev W Law    Retired- Missions to Seafarers, Auckland
Cdr Larry Robbins   Past CEO Maritime Museum Auckland
Piers Davies    Honorary Solicitor Auckland
Dr J Frew    Retired Port Doctor Auckland
Alister Macalister   Honorary Solicitor Wellington
H McMorran    Retired long time Gen Secretary/Auditor
Rev J Pether    Retired -Missions to Seafarers, Wellington
John Woodward   Honorary Solicitor Christchurch
George Hill    Christchurch

Our finances have changed little from last year and the Executive can see no reason to change the present capitation levy which goes towards funding it’s activity. The main expenditure in this area is the General Secretary’s honorarium and the cost of the Annual General Meeting. It will be seen from our financial report that the balance sheet for the Company (executive) reflects a $124 surplus for the year whereas in the consolidated assets of the Company (Company and all Branches) our total assets, at $34483, are down $260 from last year.

Quarterly reports from the General Secretary have been circulated on a 3 monthly basis as required by the rules. Branch Committees have met regularly and minutes received by the General Secretary. Branch Newsletters have been received by the General Secretary from all Branches on a regular basis. We also receive newsletters from kindred organisations in Canada and Australia.

The General Secretary arranged to publish the first edition of the revised “On Deck”. This was generally well received although it was not intended that some articles sourced from other publications would be included. This was done at the last minute to fill the available pages and because we had run out of contributions from members. A greater effort is being made with the next issue which should be published soon.

In an endeavour to improve our visibility generally in the shipping community the Wellington Branch committee recently authorised the development of a web site. The ongoing costs are minimal through the pro bono generosity of web site company Signify Ltd. If taken on board, this facility could be used by all branches of the Company and we would have links to kindred organisations in other countries. Our notices, newsletters, photographs and controversies would have a much wider audience.

It is probably time to once again look at the future of seafaring in New Zealand and to decide if we want to be involved with the future direction of the industry or simply walk away from it. In the past 25 years Master Mariners have been noticeably conspicuous by their absence from any advisory roles to Government, government agencies and ship owners. Some of this was no doubt because of conflicting interests of members or the lack of a united voice. This is understandable as we were all trained to make decisions without reference to others, however our place has been now taken in these advisory and management roles by other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants and in some cases even by marine engineers.

Some decisions have been made which have not made the master’s position any easier. I have no doubt that within our ranks there is a wealth of experience that can, and in my view, should be used for advice on maritime rule making, rule interpretation and assisting the industry to make sensible progress.

Examples of the above are Maritime Rule 22 which is a politically correct sanitisation of the International Collision Regulations and which has yet to be tested in any New Zealand Court. New Zealand Marine Weather forecasts have slowly dropped the beaufort wind scales used for many years by mariners and associated with descriptions of sea states.

In the next few months three documents will be published for public consultation. These are maritime rules that detail harbourmaster qualifications and competencies and updated pilot age rules, including the use of exemption certificates and a Ministry of Transport discussion paper. I make a plea for any members to make submissions regarding these documents if there are any parts that they do not agree with.

It will be remembered that after  a couple of incidents of ships grounding at Gisborne and Bluff, the MSA set up a National Advisory Committee to look at Port and Navigation Safety.  The committee consisted mainly of local authority officers and has resulted in risk assessments, safety management plans and continuing audits being made. The risk assessments have been described as good and helpful. The safety management plans are a pulling together what was already carried out in most ports. One master mariner said the manuals produced detail what a competent Harbourmaster should know to do his job and its contents would be well known to any harbourmaster of the past. The continuing audits will result in a paper war similar to that which has been introduced on board ships.

It is my view that if the position of harbourmaster, which was in most cases the senior pilot or at least an experienced pilot, had remained as it was for the previous 100 years, the incidents which resulted in the creation of the National Advisory Committee would have not occurred. There would be a career path for pilots to progress to in what should be the highest paid and most senior nautical position in any port.

A recent letter to the NZ Herald from one of our members reminded me of a rule change made some 15 years ago when obviously no Master Mariner was consulted. The letter referred to the refusal by the roads authority, Transit, to fly the NZ Red Ensign from the Auckland harbour bridge to mark Merchant Navy day. With the introduction of the NZ Flags Emblems and Names Protection Act the exclusive right of merchant ships to fly the red ensign was removed. According to the Act, the red ensign can now be flown “on land or places or on occasions of Maori significance” and NZ ships may fly either the NZ National Flag (Blue) or the red ensign but government ships must fly the NZ National Flag (Blue). The Taupo coastguard, a quasi government body, was recently given permission by the Governor General, supported by two cabinet ministers, to fly the NZ Red Ensign at their rooms – a long way from the stern of a merchant ship.

Recent press reports indicate that the culture of blame which has overtaken the industry resulted in Melbourne pilots refusing to move ships during periods of reduced visibility. The chairman of Port Phillip Sea Pilots said that this was the first time that he could recall in his 28 years as a pilot that no ships moved while the port and its surrounds were shrouded in fog. He said that since the decision to recommend criminal proceedings against pilots, they have become reluctant to put their licences in jeopardy.

In New Zealand the investigation of incidents by both the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and also by Maritime New Zealand appears to be unnecessary duplication. As the administrators of the Maritime Act, Maritime New Zealand should only need to investigate those incidents where a prosecution is considered necessary. If prosecution is not proceeded with then the results of any investigation should certainly not be published as has been done on many occasions in the past 10 years.

In a recent court case where a ferry master was found guilty of not reporting an incident to the authorities, the court did not resolve the question of ultimate responsibility where on some New Zealand ships there are two masters of supposedly equal rank and authority, both serving on the same ship at the same time. The masters do not change “watch” at the same time as the rest of the crew – all departments working their own unique rosters. This must lead to uncertainty especially when an incident does occur. There is erosion of control with one master being played off against the other. The excuse for this system is that this is the only way to run a ship 24 hours a day. This seems strange when ships have been running 24 hours a day since time immemorial. It is my opinion that there can only be one master on board at any one time but he can delegate authority and control to whoever is qualified and experienced.

Our organisation is in good heart socially, but I think it is time we took more than a passing or nostalgic interest in our industry.

Finally while on the subject of nostalgia, some members are curious as to what has happened to vast amount of shipping memorabilia that was housed and on display in such places as the Wellington Maritime Museum and the New Zealand Shipping Company Wellington Office. It has been suggested that some has been sent offshore. Many countries prohibit the export of heritage items and most of this material surely falls into this definition.

In closing, I wish to record my thanks to the General Secretary/Treasurer and to the various Branch Wardens, committees and newsletter editors for their continuing efforts.

Captain J A Brown
30 July 2007

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