The year under review has seen a continuation of regular monthly luncheon meetings held on the second Wednesday of each month from March to October. November is reserved for the annual cocktail function that is attended by wives and partners of members. The luncheon meeting and the cocktail function are held at the Bay Plaza Hotel Oriental Bay, which remains a popular venue for members.
The Honorable Secretary of the Branch, Captain Graham Williams continues with the unenviable task of securing entertaining and interesting speakers for the luncheon meetings, which averages twenty-three members a meeting. Those members who are able to attend and do not are missing out on a generally informative occasion often with very good debate during the question time at the conclusion of the speaker’s dissertation, especially when the topic has been on maritime matters. Also the social get together over lunch prior to the speaker gives a good opportunity to catch up on maritime gossip.
The cocktail function is subsidised by the branch and those who attend appreciate this. The dinner that is organised by Captain Williams with the Bay Plaza and attended by those who wish to continue with the very pleasant mixed company is steadily growing in numbers each year.
Membership of the Wellington Branch currently stands at 69 members. This comprises of 26 Full members, 23 Retired, 9 Country, 6 Associates, 2 Life and 3 Honorary.
A minute silence was observed at the March meeting for Captain Derek Grimmer and Captain Bob Fozard who had recently passed away. Captain Alistair Fleming was a short-term member as he was posted overseas shortly after joining. However we did gain Captain Bill Mouat from Christchurch and Mr. Bob Stott from Pauatahanui. The Rev. Bob Peters replaced the Rev. Jim Pethers who had been the Chaplain at the Wellington Mission to Seafarers for many years.
Last years annual report made mention of a Wellington member, Captain Nic Campbell volunteering to undertake the editors role of “On Deck”, the Official Journal of the NZ Company of Master Mariners. The first edition of the re-vamped journal was circulated in September 2010 and was exceptionally well received by the NZ membership and also many NZ and overseas organisations that receive copies of our national journal.
Captain Nic Campbell with the help of Mr.Bob Stott, an Associate Member of the Wellington Branch, produced a very informative and professional publication that did credit to the NZ Company of Master Mariners. At the Executive Council meeting held on August 11 2010 it was agreed to publish two editions per year providing finance was available. It was also proposed to canvass for advertising to obtain funds for “On Deck”. This obviously created additional work and a small editorial committee was formed consisting of Captains Cor Van Kesteran, Ken Watt, Nic Campbell, Mr. Bob Stott and the writer, Ron Palmer.
A significant number of appropriately selected business were canvassed but only one business showed an interest and as a result insufficient funds were available for the next edition of “On Deck” that was prepared for publication in March 2011. The reluctance of business houses to accept advertising at this time is possibly a result of the persistent world financial recession. It is believed that with reliable publication of future editions of “On Deck” in its present informative and quality format, with an improving economy, funds from advertising are a real possibility. However, in the meantime all Branches of the Company are being asked to increase membership fees, either by levy or membership subscription to provide sufficient funds for future editions of the journal.
The journal is an important organ for the NZ Company of Master Mariners. It is a medium where members can express their wealth of knowledge and be heard on overall maritime matters. Many of the members of Master Mariners have lived through times of exceptional change in the maritime industry.
Change can be good it takes one out of their comfort zone and helps to keeps their brain active and agile. However, in the march of progress often the good is left behind and there is undeniable evidence that some changes have resulted in a backward step or perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, simply need adjusting.
Some major changes to the industry are not working to the advantage of New Zealand’s economy. The Harbours industry and also Maritime NZ, is much to the fore in this regard.
The NZ Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce addressed the recent conference of the International Association of Ports & Harbors Asia/Oceania. He made it clear that it’s not the Governments role to decide the port’s structures. He has the misguided opinion that there is healthy competition between ports. It would be fair comment to suggest that there be as much competition between ports as there is between oil companies in NZ. But unlike the quest of oil companies that jointly satisfies their insatiable appetite for huge profits there is senseless parochialism in the port industry. There is some evidence that the Ports of Auckland and perhaps Lyttelton has provided international shipping lines with a level of service that do not make economic returns. With the backing of the newly formed super city how far will this uneconomic practice extend to satisfy senseless parochialism and the super city ego of Auckland.
NZ has fourteen commercial ports and five have an element of private ownership. The Port of Wellington, Ports of Auckland and Port of Otago are owned by the local regional councils and the Christchurch City Council owns in excess of 78% of the Port of Lyttelton.
Ownership is not debated in this report but the number of container ports in NZ and the capital expenditure for the five, or perhaps seven when Napier and New Plymouth are included is of concern. One good deepwater container port would be sufficient for the foreseeable future for a country with the expected population growth of New Zealand. With the inevitable introduction of larger container ships that have a draft of 50 feet senseless parochialism will see expensive dredging of harbours to accommodate these vessels. The alternative is a feeder service to Australia at a huge disadvantage in shipping time and costs for NZ exporters. The expenditure for the dredging and associated capital out lay is ultimately borne by the selected
group of ratepayers of the regions.
Before the port reforms in the late 80’s it was acknowledged that NZ only required two container ports, one at each Island. In those days there was a statutory organisation called the NZ Ports Authority (NZPA). Its primary function was to prevent ports from spending capital on container cranes, tugs, extensive dredging etc. There was a limit in the amount of dollars that a port could spend without getting approval from the NZPA. This was considered a major hindrance to competition between ports, which were governed by elected harbour boards. In hindsight perhaps the NZPA was one of the good things left behind in the march for progress.
Central Government should not take the attitude that it is not the role of Government to decide port structures. Neither should the costs of wasteful duplication be borne by groups of ratepayers throughout NZ. 99% of NZ exports go by sea and a sensible well planned infrastructure for ports should not be left to regional councils governed by local body politicians better suited for planing kindergartens and knitting forums. One deepwater container port at Marsden Point with feeder services by coastal container vessels, railways and road transport should be seriously considered for the future. Market forces will prevail over the survival of the three modes of transport for the feeder service.
The change from the NZ Marine Department to Maritime NZ should have been an improvement for the maritime industry but in latter years it is obvious that it is not returning good value for the tax payers dollar. The principle reason must fall back to the employment of senior staff.
There is obviously resistance to employ staff who have a knowledge of maritime affairs and an understanding of the industry overall. Little research is needed to know that professional practitioners in the industry hold very little respect for Maritime NZ.
It employs an army of staff who is obviously short on maritime knowledge and would be better suited to some other industry. The staff numbers are greater than what the NZ Marine Department employed. That body was responsible for surveying of ships, surveying of building elevators, inspection of lifting gear, waterfront and ship safety, administering shipping offices at various ports, navigation schools and examiners and tutors, administration, maintenance and manning of light houses etc.
On reflection the NZ Marine Department did employ staff with maritime backgrounds such as master mariners and marine engineers who knew the industry and more importantly, with the odd exception, knew what they were talking about.
There is something wrong with Maritime NZ when it takes almost 12 months for it to answer a simple question on it’s own rules. The question may never have been answered without perseverance and the threat of court action. This is not an isolated complaint as letters and emails from shipping company executives are also ignored. Obviously the problem is at the top starting with the Director and Board of Directors. The appointment of a new chairman, David Ledson, is hopefully a step in the right direction but one man can do little with a Board of accountants, an ex trade unionist and a management consultant. The same Minister of Transport who considers that port structures are not the business of government appoints these people. It is time he took a hard look at his worthless advisers on ports and harbours and maritime matters.
In conclusion much appreciation is extended to the committee who has been of grateful assistance in assisting with Branch business. Special mention of Captain Legge for his submission on behalf of the Branch to Maritime NZ on the Qualification Review that it has been undertaking over the last 12 months. Also my appreciation to the editorial committee for the official journal of the NZ Company and it’s Editor Captain Nic Campbell and his very able assistant Mr. Bob Stott. Last but not least a special thanks to our Hon. Treasurer Captain Cor Van.Kesteren and Hon. Secretary Captain Graham Williams who both ensure that the Branch runs smoothly at all times.