Rena Response Group steps up

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 39, March 2012

Specialist teams from across MNZ sprang into action with the news of Rena’s grounding last year.

The oil spill response team immediately launched a Tier 3, or national level, oil spill response. At the same time, a team of MNZ investigators boarded Rena to begin collecting information as to why and how the grounding had happened. Within hours, MNZ maritime safety inspectors were also aboard, to assess the salvage needs. They have become the eyes and ears for MNZ’s role as overseer of this complex and long-running salvage operation.

The different actions taken by MNZ representatives in response to grounding vividly illustrate MNZ’s wide range of responsibilities and roles.

Smit Borneo
Harry Hawthorn was appointed to lead the Rena Response Group as General Manager.
Maritime New Zealand ©2019

As well as being the agency responsible for coordinating oil spill response in New Zealand, MNZ is charged with overseeing the salvage operation for Rena on behalf of the government and public. It is also one of two government agencies – the other being the Transport Accident Investigation Commission – investigating the grounding and its causes. MNZ is also assisting the Government in ongoing negotiations with Rena’s owner.

All these diverse strands of work are being coordinated by the Rena Response Group, established late last year to lead and manage MNZ’s continuing involvement with the grounding. The group primarily comprises MNZ employees, including representatives from the marine pollution, maritime operations, investigations, legal, communications and finance teams.

In December, Harry Hawthorn was appointed to lead the team as General Manager, Rena Response Group. Harry was formerly General Manager Prison Services at Corrections and has a Masters Degree in public administration.

Harry said the establishment of the response group and role reflects the move from emergency response into a project management phase.

“At the beginning, what we saw was very much an emergency response, and MNZ put its various contingency plans into action to manage that,” he said. “That phase involved a huge number of MNZ employees – in the early stages, nearly everyone at MNZ was working on the Rena response in one capacity or another. However, more than five months on, we are clearly in a very different phase of the overall operation.”

Harry said it is anticipated that the group will be working on the Rena operation, in various capacities, at least until the end of 2012.

“What we are now seeing is a much smaller number of representatives from a range of MNZ teams working on a number of different work streams. Establishing a core group that is responsible for managing these work streams will allow the wider MNZ team to focus on business as usual and ensure we continue to deliver on all of our services and outputs.”

He has been impressed with the work done by the response teams so far. “From what I have seen, everyone who has worked on the Rena response has demonstrated incredible expertise and commitment to getting the job done. We still have a long way to go and I’m pleased to be leading such a dedicated team.”

The Rena Response Group will also be coordinating any reviews into the Rena response. “It’s important that we learn everything we can from this event,” Harry said. One of the positives that can come out of something like this is that there will be a number of lessons we can take from it to improve our preparedness and systems.

“We will also share our findings with the international maritime community, so everyone can benefit from our experience.”

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