Guest editorial: The year in review

Lookout! Issue 27, December 2012

Casualties, compliance and collaboration in the NZ maritime industry

I began my role as Chief Executive of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) at the beginning of December 2011 – two months after Rena became a household name in New Zealand.

The impact of the Rena event on the Bay of Plenty and surrounding regions, iwi, the wider community and businesses has been profound and is ongoing.

As the incoming Chief Executive, I was able to observe the first part of the response prior to officially taking up the role. The first two months were of course a most intense and challenging period. Although it would be better if this event had never happened, I was pleased to have been invited into the organisation to observe during those first two months.

Keith Manch
Maritime New Zealand’s Chief Executive and Director Keith Manch.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

This enabled me to get a feel for the way MNZ responded both to the incident itself, and to the immediate opportunities to change and improve its approach – especially in the area of iwi and community engagement. I doubt that anyone could experience a more realistic induction into a role.

Subsequently, I have been more directly involved in the multiple dimensions of the ongoing response activity, including oil pollution response, salvage oversight, investigation and prosecution activity, and negotiating for recovery of costs paid by government.

MNZ’s overall response is subject to an independently led review, which will, no doubt, identify further opportunities for improvement in dealing with matters of this nature. I welcome that. It is critical that we learn lessons and improve.

It’s also important that I acknowledge what has been achieved by people and organisations – staff at MNZ, the numerous central and local government organisations, the New Zealand Defence Force, iwi and communities – and individuals involved in the response and recovery effort, to date.

We have come a long way in 14 months. The Bay of Plenty beaches are in good condition for the coming summer. Those responsible for the event – the master, 2nd officer and owners – have been held to account through our justice system. The owners and their insurers have taken a positive approach in responding to this unwelcome event, including repaying substantially more of the Crown’s costs than they were required to by law.

The event is not over, but is well under control. Projects are underway (led by the multi-agency Rena Recovery team) to monitor and assess what can be done to support the ongoing environmental recovery, and there is still considerable work to do on the wreck itself.

The ongoing risk remains of debris being released and causing navigation hazards and being washed up on beaches. The level of response from everyone involved over the past year and two months indicates that these remaining risks will be well managed.

The Rena event has reset the clock for MNZ in many ways. The intensity of the response required from virtually everyone in the organisation, either directly or in support of those directly engaged, has touched everything we do. Major projects already collectively big enough to challenge the organisation – the development of the Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS), SeaCert (formerly the Qualifications and Operational Limits (QOL) framework) and the Funding Review – were put under more pressure. Meanwhile, business as usual work had to be completed alongside work on the Rena response or put on hold.

Throughout 2012, these three key projects have been the focus of much work, which is now moving firmly into the implementation phase. Pending changes to the way domestic commercial vessels and their operations are regulated (MOSS), and to the framework for seafarer certification (SeaCert) have required us to reflect on the functions, roles and team structures that we have in place to ensure successful delivery of the new systems.

Focusing on this has highlighted the opportunities we have to improve other aspects of our compliance capability – that is, the way we bring all elements of the organisation to bear on supporting, encouraging, assisting and enforcing requirements to comply with the laws, regulations, rules and codes that support safe, secure and clean seas and waterways in New Zealand.

There is significant effort going into bringing our policy, legal, maritime, environmental and front line skills together. This has included developing a Maritime Advisory Group made up of people from different parts of MNZ, with experience across the maritime spectrum, who discuss key issues and overall organisational direction directly with me.

In particular, changes we are making to our roles and team structures, we are looking closely at how we collect, collate, analyse and use information across all of our functions to ensure that our actions are targeted where they will have the most impact (often referred to as being intelligence-led). Our approach is being informed by developments in compliance thinking from other regulatory and compliance organisations, both in New Zealand and internationally.

MNZ will be increasingly intelligence-led, with a strong focus on the achievement of safety, security and environmental outcomes.

As we move into 2013, MNZ will use this intelligence-led approach, with a strong focus on risk (after all, regulation is essentially about risk management) and the achievement of safety, security and environmental outcomes. MNZ’s work is underpinned by a number of international and domestic frameworks that have elements of prescription and/or provide for a more performance-based, or outcomes-based approach. There is a range of compliance tools available that we can use, from liaison to enforcement. Our goal is to ensure that we use the right tool, at the right time, to achieve the best possible compliance outcomes.

A critical part of achieving compliance in a way that supports effective safety, security and environmental outcomes is through engaging effectively with those we regulate. Regulatory relationships are always challenging – especially where the system operates on levies, fees and charges as ours does, to a large extent. We deliver privileges and obligations rather than ‘customer services’, in the usual sense of that phrase. We are here to protect the safety of seafarers, passengers, clients, cargo and society at large (including the environment) rather than ‘delighting’ those we engage directly with in most cases. None of that means that we shouldn’t engage with respect, be courteous, fair, reasonable and responsive – nor indeed that those we engage with shouldn’t behave in a similar manner.

This year we have made significant efforts to build on the quality of the industry relationships that have been established through the Sector Reference Group (that has put so much time into the Funding Review work), and build on relationships that have been at the heart of the Rena response.

The engagement relating to the Funding Review has had the added benefit of bringing together representatives of the multiple elements of the maritime industry, leading to the establishment of a New Zealand Maritime Forum. This excellent initiative should help to ensure that the maritime industry’s relationships with MNZ are constructive. More importantly, it supports the industry in engaging with government more broadly, and recognises the vital importance of the maritime industry to New Zealand.

The Rena incident has highlighted the critical nature of our engagements with iwi, local communities and businesses, local government agencies, the emergency management community in government, and the New Zealand Defence Force. Incidents like those involving Rena highlight the importance of planning, preparation and execution of response activities – none of which can be successful without strong relationships between people that may have to work together effectively in times of extreme stress.

As 2012 comes to a close, and 2013 kicks off, our focus will remain on completing the Rena response, and on making sure we are in the best possible position to succeed as an effective maritime regulator – by ensuring we are well organised, capable of doing what’s required and working well with others. I look forward to working with you all to achieve our vision of safe, secure and clean seas.

Keith Manch, Chief Executive and Director Maritime New Zealand

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