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Maritime drug testing and Chathams shipping plans changed

The new Government has reversed plans for a mandatory maritime drug and alcohol testing regime and allowing foreign flagged ships to carry freight to the Chatham Islands.

MPs debated the Maritime Transport Amendment Bill tonight which was reinstated from the last Parliament.

The Bill originally proposed commercial maritime operators to have drug and alcohol management plans, including random testing for staff carrying out safety sensitive activities.

The select committee report (written by a National Government dominated committee) inserted the mandatory drug testing regime on top of this, as well as the Chatham Islands proposals, which were then opposed by Labour and Green MPs on committee.

National MP Jami-Lee Ross said the new Government’s amendments to remove the mandatory drug and alcohol testing regime were a step backwards on safety.

The Minister in the Chair - Julie Ann Genter - said the law would still allow for drug and alcohol management on ships. This included testing in the work place in some circumstances and for testing following an incident. The Authority could also ensure testing took place if it was felt to be needed.

She said a mandatory drug testing framework was unnecessary and would impose large unnecessary costs on small operators.

Ross said NZ First had supported the mandatory testing regime in the last Parliament, but Genter said all Government parties supported the latest changes.

The select committee had also proposed allowing foreign-registered ships to carry freight to New Zealand’s offshore islands – in effect the Chatham Islands.

In select committee National had argued this would make freight to and from the islands cheaper through competition. The Labour and Greens minority report said “We heard compelling evidence from Chatham Islands Shipping Ltd that there are insufficient freight volumes to the Chatham Islands to make more than one service economically viable. Opening up the possibility of foreign flagged vessels to run a service could undermine the financial viability of the current not-for-profit trust, and could eventually result in a private monopoly by a foreign registered vessel. It could also undermine the provision of a reliable shipping service to the Chathams, threatening the livelihoods of the small, isolated population.”

Debate on the Bill's committee stage was interrupted.

© Scoop Media

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