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Safety Initiatives In Tory Channel To Be Trialed



Several maritime safety initiatives will be trialed in the Tory Channel area this summer, as a result of a safety study of the area by a group jointly convened by the Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) and Marlborough District Council (MDC).

During the past few months the group, which includes representatives of all types of shipping and boating operators using Tory Channel, has undertaken a major consultation exercise in a bid to find the best solutions to navigation safety risks caused by heavy use of the waterway.

Over 2,000 copies of a discussion document were distributed in the area and resulted in 150 replies, some from organisations which represent large groups such as the local resident associations.

"I am very pleased that we have reached a clear consensus on how to bring about navigational safety improvements in Tory Channel. Moreover, through voluntary co-operation, we can achieve rapid implementation of many of the issues in time for the summer period", said the Director of Maritime Safety, Russell Kilvington.

The Tory Channel Group's Recommendations were:

* A shipping lane in Tory Channel and the inner Queen Charlotte


The lane would be for all vessels over 500 gross tonnage (GT) and be the only area where such vessels would be permitted to travel at speeds in excess of 18 knots.

Large ships would be required to adhere to the lanes in order to clarify their route to others. Other craft would not be barred from the lanes, including crossing, but should avoid them wherever possible.

The lane would be introduced on a voluntary basis from 1 December and monitored during the summer season by the Marlborough Harbourmaster. If successful, the lane may be backed up by formal controls.

* Radio Communications

The group supports in principle and requests that Port Marlborough consider introducing a dedicated VHF radio channel for reporting of their movements by all vessels over 500 GT transiting Tory Channel. The radio frequency could be monitored by all other users of the Sounds to warn them of imminent large vessel movements.

* Education

The group requests MDC, with support as appropriate from MSA, to devote further efforts to increase public awareness of navigational safety in general and of the specific safety issues and the consequent initiatives taken by the group relating to Tory Channel, particularly amongst occasional recreational boat users.

* Accident and Incident Reporting

Increased availability of reporting forms and a public campaign to make operators of all craft aware of their legal obligation to report accidents and incidents.

* Overtaking Restrictions

The introduction, initially on a voluntary basis, of overtaking restrictions between all vessels over 500 GT at Tory Channel entrance and at three other locations of limited channel width and visibility.

The group did not agree on the issue of a maximum speed for ferries, although the two current operators of fast ferries (Tranz Rail and Top Cat) agreed to restrict operating speed around Dieffenbach/Heaphy points - blind corners where Tory Channel meets Queen Charlotte Sound - to 35 knots. The complex relationship between speed and fast ferry wash (that is, the safety and environmental consequences of wash can be greater at lower speed for some craft) meant that an agreed speed for all types of craft might be inappropriate. The matter will stay under review.

For similar reasons the group felt it more appropriate to maintain a watching brief on the size and operating speed of new ferries being designed.

"Many of these initiatives will be introduced in time for the summer," said Mr Kilvington. "Following careful monitoring, the group will reconvene towards the end of this trial period to consider how well these initiatives went and what further action might be required."



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