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Kotuku safety recommendations well underway



Kotuku safety recommendations well underway

Progress is well underway in implementing safety recommendations made in a report out today (Friday 18 April) on the 2006 Kotuku tragedy, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

MNZ Director Catherine Taylor says it has adopted safety recommendations on its Safe Ship Management (SSM) system made by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), following its investigation into the 13 May 2006 accident, in which six people died.

“The loss of the Kotuku was a tragedy and our sincere sympathies are with the families of all those who lost loved ones,” Ms Taylor says.

“What is clear from TAIC’s report is that a number of factors combined to cause this accident, which everyone can learn from. Various independent reviews undertaken before the accident found that while the SSM system is sound, we accept the report’s findings that there are elements of the system needing improvement. This is why we are responding to the commission’s recommendations and are taking further action to address these issues. The maritime industry supports these actions and the leadership MNZ is providing to improve safety in the sector.”

Introduced by MNZ in 1998, SSM is a safety management system that requires vessel owners to be responsible for the day-to-day safety of their vessels. It covers all aspects of safety, including occupational safety and health systems, crew qualifications, hazard identification, condition of the vessel and its fitness for purpose. The system includes documentation to demonstrate that vessel safety is being managed throughout the year, not just when surveys and audits are due.

“SSM is a major improvement on the previous survey system, which relied on annual checks that were open to abuse,” Ms Taylor says. “This, for example, led to some operators ‘borrowing’ equipment to ensure compliance on the day of survey, rather than ensuring they were compliant all year round.”

Ms Taylor says implementation of the TAIC safety recommendations is reinforced by a range of other work MNZ is already doing across the maritime sector.

“MNZ is absolutely committed to a safe maritime sector, which is reliant on all participants in the system doing their part. This is why we are continuing to work as hard as we can alongside the industry and with vessel operators to improve safety through a range of initiatives, many of which were already underway prior to this accident. This includes the highly successful FishSAFE programme, a joint government/industry project, which originated in 2000, and has since resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the number of ACC injury claims from the sector between 2003 and 2007.”

Ms Taylor says these and other safety statistics show the vast majority of the 3200 vessels in its SSM system are operating safely, with older commercial wooden vessels like Kotuku making up only a very small proportion of vessels in the system.

“The reality is that the vast majority of commercial vessels under the system are operating safely and without incident every day. This is supported by the latest safety statistics, which show three deaths for the commercial sector in 2007 – the lowest ever recorded – compared with 18 in 1996. This is further supported by the work we are doing jointly with the commercial fishing industry through various other initiatives, which continue to improve safety across the sector.”

Ms Taylor says, however, with any regulatory system, there will always be some who find it difficult to comply.

“MNZ acknowledges there will always be some operators at the margins who struggle. In response, we are taking steps to ensure vessel owners and operators more clearly understand their roles and responsibilities. We are also stepping up our regime of inspections, audits and spot checks of vessels, along with raising the professional standards of surveyors through increased training and support. This ensures that the high standards that we expect are not compromised, and that any vessels that don’t measure up are removed from the system.”

Ms Taylor says MNZ took immediate steps after the accident to ensure important safety messages arising out of it were communicated to others in the industry.

“Following the Kotuku accident, MNZ issued safety bulletins about the importance of keeping vessel freeing ports clear to allow water to drain off the deck, and of ensuring that liferaft cradles were properly fitted so that the liferaft can release in the event of an emergency.

“MNZ is also continuing to work closely with representatives from the Bluff fishing community and local iwi prior to the muttonbird seasons to raise awareness of these issues and help foster a good safety culture.”

Ms Taylor says its accident investigation has been a long and difficult process for all involved. However, its final report into the accident is nearing completion and will be released as soon as possible,

“There has been a huge amount of information that has had to be collected and carefully considered as part of our investigation. Our draft report will first go to interested parties for comment before being prepared for public release.”



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