The Pacific Maritime Safety Programme

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 52, August 2017

New SAR vessels and public education.
The Pacific Maritime Safety Programme
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
Wharf derrick refurbishment in Niue.

Search and Rescue response vessels for Niue and Tokelau are part of a second phase of the Pacific Maritime Safety Programme, along with equipment such as rescue beacons and training for local fishers.

Maritime NZ is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Pacific Island Governments and industry, to extend the NZ Aid programme to other nations. Initiatives already delivered in the South Pacific since 2011 include:

  • a response boat and VHF transmitter network for Kiribati, and a maritime safety community education programme to villages
  • technical and legislative support to the Government of Tonga, and hydrographic risk assessment of charting areas
  • „ navigation aids, pilot training, and nautical charting in the Cook Islands „
  • a technical analyst embedded in the maritime administration of Tuvalu, updating legislation and preparing for the separation of the operations and regulation of Government ships.

Project manager Arthur Jobard, who has been seconded to the programme from Maritime NZ with safety adviser David Billington, says education and training will again be a strong focus for the $8 million Phase 2 programme – to be rolled out over the next three years in Tuvalu, Niue and Tokelau.

“The programme aims to provide the necessary equipment to help save lives, but also train locals in how to use devices such as rescue beacons and VHF hand-held radio.

“We want commercial and recreational fishers to understand why it’s important to think about safety and take water-proof communications, as well as wear or carry enough life jackets for all the crew.

“We’re planning to run public education programmes through the churches and schools, and provide technical expertise to help Governments develop better legislation, regulation, and formal seafarer training.

“We want to help these nations build sustainable maritime systems where all levels of government and response services link together; fishing boats and communities are better equipped; and countries can work in collaboration across the south west Pacific.”

Arthur says at present the reality is many local fishers head out into the vast Pacific Ocean with little safety equipment such as lifejackets, no extra fuel or back-up outboard motor, and often without any communication devices to call for help if they have engine trouble or other problems.

It is not until crews are overdue that the alarm is raised by family members, via local Police, to the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand. A New Zealand Airforce P-3 Orion may be requested to fly to the general vicinity and do an aerial search, without even a beacon signal to help locate the missing party.

Arthur says the new SAR response boats are part of the range of initiatives planned to help build local capability and improve safety practices.

An 8.5 metre steel-hulled SAR vessel is being constructed by New Zealand company ICON Custom Boats NZ, and is due to undergo sea trials in September 2017 for shipping to Niue in October this year. Refurbishment work has also been carried out to a dockside derrick at Sir Robert’s Wharf in Niue to enable the 3.5 tonne SAR vessel to be launched – as well as provide a safer means of getting local fishing boats and yachts in and out of the water.

As part of the wider public education programme a team will tour with the new boat to coastal villages around Niue. Next year a 12–14 metre vessel for inter-atoll transport, also capable of SAR operations, is to be delivered to Tokelau.

Niue has around 60 small boats, of less than five metres, used for fishing by the population of around 1500 on one main island, while Tokelau has around 1300 residents over many island atolls.

Wider support and training provided by Maritime NZ across the Pacific region includes oil spill response simulations undertaken by MPRS (Maritime Pollution Response Service), and search and rescue (SAR) workshops run by RCCNZ. New Zealand also hosts Pacific nationals in local courses, such as piloting and SAR officer training.

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