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Jody Shows Oil Spill Risk Too High - Greens

Comments made by Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) director Russell Kilvington today cast doubt on the country's readiness to deal with a major oil spill risk, Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Mr Kilvington today told the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee that the MSA could only just scrape together enough tugs for the salvage of the Jody F Millennium, and that he was concerned during the operation that resources were very tight.

Ms Fitzsimons said luck had been on the side of the salvors and the MSA this time, but next time it could be different.

"They were extremely lucky with the Jody that she was a relatively new ship, and that she did not break up during the weeks that it took to bring the tugs together and conduct the salvage operation. Next time we might not be so lucky," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said it seems there was only one available tug in New Zealand, the Pacific Chieftain, big enough to play a major role in the salvage operation. The other large tug used was the Keera from Melbourne, and the smaller Seatow tug from Picton was used as a support tug.

"It took five days for the Pacific Chieftain to arrive from New Plymouth, and ten days for the Keera to arrive from Melbourne.

"No-one can describe that as immediate response in an emergency. I have been trying, without success, to find out whether there are enough New-Zealand registered large tugs available for requisitioning by the MSA in the event of an emergency salvage operation and, if so, where they are normally located.

"Next time we may not have ten days to wait for the tugs to get there. Every extra day could make the difference between a successful salvage and an environmental disaster unprecedented in New Zealand.

"The MSA national oil spill response plan says that New Zealand is equipped to deal with a 7000 tonne spill whereas this one was just a fraction of that. The lessons from the Jody have to be learnt, because at the moment the risk of a major oil spill is just too high."

Ends

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