Maritime NZ supports earthquake response efforts

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 51, December 2016

Maritime NZ is operating as a key point of contact between Government and the maritime industry in the response and recovery efforts following last month’s 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake.

General Manager Safety and Response, Nigel Clifford, says Maritime NZ has facilitated liaison and information flow between many parties - including key central and local agencies such as the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and the Wellington Regional Council, and others in the sector such as ports, domestic and international shipping, the cruise industry, harbour-masters and commercial maritime operators. Maritime Officers are assisting Kaikoura operators, and checking on their safety and well being.

Nigel says one of the first activities was to help in “joining up” the efforts to arrange the evacuation of stranded tourists.

“Overnight the only transport access into and out of Kaikoura was by sea and air - and a maritime solution was the obvious way to get those hundreds of tourists, and some locals, out of the earthquake-damaged area,” he says.

Johnny Persico and Andy Cox.
A Royal NZ Navy rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) transports evacuees to HMNZS Canterbury’s waiting landing craft medium (LCM).
Royal New Zealand Navy ©2019

In the initial response, Maritime NZ responders worked closely with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM). Coastal navigation warnings were broadcast by the Maritime Operations Centre to mariners to let them know about the one-two metre uplift of the seabed and coastline - which is mainly localised to Kaikoura.

This uplift means that work needs to be carried out to reinstate working access to South Bay Harbour. Local and regional government, along with industry, are still assessing what maritime recovery work is needed, with some contingency plans quickly put in place.

“The harbourmaster tells us that the low water mark is now the high water mark,” Nigel says.

In Wellington the focus of Maritime NZ has been on working closely with the Port authorities and harbour-master to help in any way possible to get services going again. Nigel says good progress has been made, but there are going to be continuing challenges for some considerable time. Port damage in Wellington will continue to affect the container berths, the rail link and some buildings.

“We will carry on working closely with all the parties to facilitate a short to medium-term strategy - focusing on port resilience.”

Maritime NZ is part of the Government’s Transport Response Team and a recently-formed freight working group led by the Ministry of Transport, which provides situational updates to the Government group coordinating the national response - initially from the National Crisis Management Centre in the Beehive.

Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch is participating in the meetings of ODESC (the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination) and Watch Group, which provide a constant brief for Government Ministers and chief executives.

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