Ports & Harbours National Advisory Committee

A short report of the meeting held on 14 August 2008 at which the Master was present.

All ports with the exception of Otago, have submitted risk assessments to Maritime New Zealand, 15 have been approved. 5 ports have had navigation Safety Management Systems approved and one, Taranaki, is due for the first mid term audit by Maritime New Zealand shortly.

With regards to the Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code, the Ministry of Transport has recommended to Cabinet that the Maritime Transport Act 1994 be amended as follows to:-

a)         require the operators of port facilities to take all practicable steps to ensure that their operations do not pose a danger to any ship;

b)         ensure that MNZ audit and inspection powers may be applied to port facility operations;

c)         extend to the Director of MNZ power to impose conditions for safety and marine environment purposes;

d)         extend the Minister of Transport’s rule making power to provide for matters relating to the safe management of ports and harbours;

e)         specify that navigation control, including harbour safety management, is a function of regional councils;

f)          establish explicit harbourmaster functions, to make it clear that the harbourmaster has the function of managing navigation safety, including harbour safety, together with any function conferred on the harbourmaster by any other legislation;

g)         require every regional council to appoint a suitably qualified harbourmaster;

h)         provide that a navigation bylaw may not duplicate the subject matter of a maritime rule relating to navigational safety;

i)          provide for regional councils to issue infringement notices

It is hoped that the bill will be on the legislative program for 2009. The select committee stage provides further opportunity for submissions/considerations.

Some ports have identified in their harbour risk assessments the provision of functional radar or radio based vessel traffic service (VTS). If a regional council decides to establish a VTS, there is a requirement that operators must be qualified and trained in accordance with international standards and the service equipped according to those standards. It is possible that no port in New Zealand needs a VTS, especially in view of the proposed amendments to the Maritime Transport Act.

The harbourmasters representatives are working on qualifications of harbourmasters, which will ensure that they hold qualifications at least to the standard required on the largest ship that uses the port. Some would say that, in addition, they should have pilotage experience in that port as there are cases now in New Zealand ports where pilots are more experienced than the harbourmasters. It would also re-instate a career path for older pilots. If nothing else the proposed provision will ensure that the local “rat catcher” can not become harbourmaster.

The Chief Examiner of Master and Mates presented a plan, jointly developed by Australia, in which future pilots will join a port company and be target trained from start without any pre sea service. After 2½ years they can continue with piloting, or change to surveying or port management. At the end of 5 years they will have the academic equivalent of master foreign going and will have spent time at sea on a number of selected ships. This is to minimise an anticipated shortage of trained pilots in the near future. Some applicants for harbourmaster positions are ex navy officers however their experience, even with command, does not always reach the standard of master foreign going in all fields, such as ship stability.                

LINZ reported that the first electronic navigation vector charts to be produced in New Zealand are being trialled on the Cook Strait ferries. Over the next two years, electronic navigation charts will be released to cover the whole of the New Zealand area. Future surveying work includes the shipping lane around East Cape, all explosive dumping grounds, Tasman Bay, Milford, Thompson, Doubtful, Breaksea and Dusky Sounds, Wellington harbour entrance, Great Barrier Island, Stewart Island and areas in Tonga and Samoa.

The Director of Maritime New Zealand announced a new structure for the management of Maritime New Zealand which will have the following divisions:- Corporate Services, Strategy & Communications, Safety and Response Services, Maritime Operations, Maritime Safety Systems, Monitoring and Compliance.

Investigations will come under the Monitoring and Compliance Manager and in future concentrate more on investigations where it is clear that there has been a breech of the Maritime Transport Act and which it is thought that a prosecution will be sought. The Director agreed that this was a change from recent practice.

There was some discussion on the future focus of the committee. Prior to its formation in 2003 there were a number of groundings and near grounding of large merchant ships within or in the approaches to NZ ports. It was subsequently identified that there was a lack of national standards, there was no clear allocation of responsibility and accountability and that the regulatory structure permitted short term economic incentives to influence safety related decisions.

The key structural weakness was that the principal navigational safety officer (the harbourmaster) was a middle level manager within an organisation (regional council) that was generally principal shareholder in the organisation generating most risk (port company), or within a port company marine operations team (where there has been a delegation of the harbourmaster function).  This limited the influence of the harbourmaster and created the potential for conflicts of interests.  

Presently the committee has representatives from Regional Councils, Port Companies, Harbourmasters, Insurance Council, Maritime Transport Association, Nautical Institute, Land Information NZ, Council of Trade Unions, Maritime Pilots, Shipping Federation, Ministry of Transport and Maritime New Zealand. Given the uncertainties about the timetable for legislative changes it was considered that the committee continue for the short to medium term and to increase membership to include overseas ship-owners, if this is possible.

Capt J A Brown MNI

24 August 2008


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