Sound framework for coastal navigation

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

Maritime NZ’s review of coastal navigation safety found New Zealand has in place a sound framework to manage the movement of ships around the New Zealand coast. The framework includes procedures to assess risk and adjust safety measures if required.

Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch says the review, begun in April last year, was prompted by an anticipated increase in the number of ship visits to New Zealand, a trend toward larger ships, and technology changes in navigational aids.

Consideration was also given to a Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) recommendation, following the grounding of the Rena, that Maritime NZ collect data on shipping movements around the New Zealand coast, and monitor and control the use of virtual aids to navigation.

Recent access to ship tracking data based on ships’ Automatic Identification System (AIS) enabled Maritime NZ to examine the routes taken by ships, Keith says.

“Previous studies indicate that ship volumes and other existing hazards around New Zealand do not meet international criteria for imposing shipping lanes or mandatory routes, and the review indicates that this is still the case.

“Incidents like the Rena grounding would not necessarily be prevented if shipping lanes were in place – in the case of the Rena, poor watch-keeping and navigation were identified as key contributing factors.”

Following the review, Maritime NZ is undertaking work to improve the management of electronic systems that aid navigation. These systems alert ships to navigation hazards through their AIS systems, rather than using physical marks or beacons.

“This is a rapidly growing and changing area of technology. We are developing a strategy on how best to manage the use of this technology in New Zealand,” says Keith.

The review identified two areas of potentially higher risk relative to other locations – the Hauraki Gulf and Colville Channel, and Cook Strait – when passenger vessels and other hazards were considered in combination.

“This review does not indicate an immediate risk to vessels or water users in these areas – but we will work with harbourmasters, pilots, ferry operators, and the coastal shipping industry to see how risks are managed and identify any gaps,” he says

“Around 120 ships’ masters, harbourmasters, pilots and other water users provided expert input into the review, and we’re delighted with that response.”

Other review recommendations include linking with Australia to improve the approach to port State control inspections carried out on foreign-flagged vessels – with more than 60 percent of ships arriving or leaving New Zealand waters also travelling to or from Australia.

“Australia uses a sophisticated data collection and risk profiling tool to manage port State control inspections, and we will be discussing with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) what can be done to join up our two systems,” Keith says.

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