MNZ’s legislative role

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 43, April 2013

MNZ’s role is to make life at sea safer, protect the maritime environment from pollution, and ensure New Zealand ports and ships are secure.

This is achieved through the compliance function of MNZ, which is driven by a number of legislative frameworks. Some of these include the Ship Registration Act, the Maritime Transport (MTA) Act, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, and the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act. The new Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS), which is planned to come into force in mid-2014, will also provide the structure to assist the majority of commercial maritime operators to meet their obligations under the MTA.

The maritime rules made under the MTA cover both recreational and commercial operators, whereas the HSE Act applies to ships as places of work. This includes owner operators, operators that employ others to work aboard their vessels, and those who contract others to perform duties on their behalf.

The MTA deals with systems and survey matters relating to ships, and the qualifications of the seafarers that operate them. Maritime rules made under the MTA are largely prescriptive and tend to clearly stipulate how to deal with a particular issue.

The HSE Act seeks to monitor and positively influence the work-related behaviour of people, and is performance based or outcomes focused. The Act takes into account the wide range of human behaviour, and does not specify how to achieve a particular outcome. Instead it relies upon a duty holder/employer taking “all practicable steps” to ensure the health and safety of people in the workplace. What is practicable for a large company may not be so for a sole trader. So the HSE Act makes provision for a variety of solutions to a particular problem.

What does the HSE Act mean for MNZ and the maritime sector?

Compliance with all relevant legislation must be regarded as a cost of entry to any business enterprise. This is no different for a fishing vessel, an adventure tourism activity, or coastal shipping, to name but a few commercial maritime activities.

Each operator is expected to tailor their activities according to their own requirements and abilities in order to achieve safe outcomes for themselves and their employees. Employees also have a duty to be diligent about their own health and safety and that of others in or near a place of work. A focus on health and safety is therefore an ongoing and integral part of running any business.

MNZ has invested in updated HSE Act training for Maritime Officers. They will fill the various roles mandated under the HSE Act – inspector, educator and, in some cases, the investigator, who may take a prosecution against an offending operator.

The majority of employees in the maritime sector just want to make a living from the sea, operating in a safe and cost-effective manner without having their crew injured or permanently disabled. MNZ’s Maritime Officers will be able to provide helpful advice on how to achieve HSE compliance. In addition, MNZ will continue to develop guidance material on the various HSE-related issues. This will be made available on our website later.

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