Lifting equipment onboard ships a serious safety risk

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 53, July 2018

Maritime NZ has identified cranes and other lifting equipment onboard ships as a serious safety risk.

Waikato Regional Harbourmaster Richard Barnett patrols Lake Karapiro last summer.

Maritime New Zealand © 2020
Each heave of logs is lifted in a basket hitch from the wharf into the hold, using the ship’s cranes.

Acting General Manager Maritime Compliance, Kenny Crawford, said in the last year, Maritime NZ has received on average two notifications a month of failures, incidents or near misses involving lifting equipment onboard ships visiting New Zealand. It is also aware that not all cases have been reported.

Kenny has written to organisations working with ships in New Zealand ports advising them of their legal responsibilities and clarifying Maritime NZ’s position in the event of a lifting equipment failure.

To follow up, Maritime NZ held an industry-wide workshop in June to address these serious concerns. Agents, charterers including large import and export companies, port companies, stevedores, unions, harbourmasters, marine operations managers and classification societies, all have a part to play.

In addition, Maritime NZ is working through the International Maritime Organization to change international safety rules about lifting equipment onboard ships.

Kenny’s letter says the first step in improving lifting equipment safety is for crew, stevedores or others involved in lifting operations onboard ships to stop work when lifting equipment is found to be unserviceable, unfit, suspect or damaged.

The Maritime Transport Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 put legal requirements on ships’ masters, and others involved in working with a ship, to make timely notification and preserve the scene of an incident.

The easiest way to report is to complete an online accident or incident report, which can be accessed via You can also report by phone or face-to-face.

Where an accident, incident or notifiable event involving lifting equipment occurs, Maritime NZ expects all work involving lifting equipment on board that ship to stop to allow Maritime NZ to respond, ensure the scene is preserved and enable an assessment to be made of the hazards with on-going operations.

In the interests of safety, where the cause of a failure is unknown, or may be present in other lifting equipment, Maritime NZ will impose conditions that no lifting equipment on that ship is to be used until all equipment has been inspected, where necessary repaired, and confirmed as safe to use. This is to ensure that the remaining equipment is fit for purpose and that its use will not endanger anyone.

Inspection and approval of onboard lifting equipment must be to the satisfaction of the ship’s classification society.

In some cases it may be necessary to detain a ship for an investigation. Likewise, where there are clear grounds for a port state control inspection, Maritime NZ will prioritise such an inspection.

The sector’s understanding that lifting operations will need to stop to prevent harm is much appreciated. Similarly, cooperation in the timely reporting of notifiable events and the preservation of the scene is greatly valued.


From 28 May 2017 – 17 April 2018, Maritime NZ received 55 notifications regarding ship’s lifting equipment or the handling of cargo onboard cargo ships in New Zealand. Of these, 39 were notifiable events. Of these notifiable events, 18 were failures of crane hoist/runner wires. There were no reported injuries.

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