New chairperson for Maritime NZ

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 52, August 2017

The new chairperson of the Maritime NZ Authority, Blair O’Keeffe, says the regulation and response agency plays a critical role in safeguarding New Zealand’s seas and waterways.
Maritime NZ chairperson Blair OKeeffe
Maritime New Zealand © 2020
Maritime NZ chairperson Blair O’Keeffe: “There is no responsibility more serious, or more important, than the safety and well-being of people”.

A member of the Authority and Deputy Chair for a year before taking over as Chair last October, Blair says he is impressed with the commitment of staff in delivering on Maritime NZ’s outcomes to achieve safe, secure and clean seas and waterways.

“I take my hat off to the passion and dedication of our team – for their commitment to saving lives. That’s certainly why I am here.”

With seven years as the CEO of Wellington’s CentrePort until 2015, Blair brings a good understanding of safety management in a maritime setting to his new position. He also has broad management and operations experience after 17 years around the globe with BP.

Key to our success is how to engage with an extremely diverse range of operators.

“BP is a company that works in high hazard environments across many different divisions and countries, with customers covering the full spectrum of industry – much like the maritime sector,” he says.

Blair says the maritime sector is a vibrant and challenging one – with those challenges including the hazardous environments that seafarers work in.

“There is no responsibility more serious, or more important, than the safety and well-being of people.

“At Maritime NZ we regulate and audit operators, and certify seafarers, to help protect employees and passengers from these potential hazards – like deep sea trawling, using machinery at sea, or passenger vessels operating in rough conditions.”

“Key to our success is how to engage with an extremely diverse range of operators.

“Our function is also to educate and advise recreational boaties about what they need to do to stay safe. Virtual Coastwatch is a great example of using technology to find a way to reach a diverse and dispersed group involved in a wide range of activities out on the water.”

The geo-fence for this digital advertising initiative will operate again this summer – with boaties sent a reminder to wear their lifejacket if they have any one of 25 Apps open on their mobile devices when they leave shore.

Blair says another key area of responsibility for Maritime NZ is its rescue and response services – the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ), and the Maritime Pollution Response Service (MPRS).

“We have a world-class rescue coordination service, based in Avalon, which covers a large part of the globe in a very professional manner.”

Maritime NZ’s persistence and hard work in engaging with industry – over issues such as ring-fencing older and legacy tickets for seafarers, so they do not have to transition them to SeaCert – is something Blair is keen to see continue.

“We need to keep working hard to make sure we are closely engaged with industry and seafarers to help meet the outcomes set out in our Statement of Performance Expectations. We have finite resources, and we can’t do this alone,” he says.

“Together with industry, if we are successful, more people make it home safely. That’s something worth working for.”

Blair took over the helm of the Maritime NZ Authority from David Ledson, who served more than seven years as Chairman following a long career with the Royal New Zealand Navy.

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