Kotuku final accident report released
26 AUGUST 2008 TIME: 10.00AM
Kotuku final accident report released
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has today (26 August) released its final accident report into the sinking of the fishing vessel Kotuku on13 May 2006, in which six people tragically lost their lives.
The report finds that the vessel suffered a critical loss of stability when struck by two unexpected large waves, causing a large amount of water to be shipped onto the deck. It concludes that a number of factors are likely to have contributed to her loss, including a heightened centre of gravity caused by various deck modifications, as well as the closure of the vessel’s freeing ports (slots in the deck walls designed to allow excess water to escape) and the helmsman’s attempts to put the vessel’s stern into the waves, exposing her side-on to the oncoming sea.
MNZ Director Catherine Taylor said the accident investigation had been a long and demanding process, and thanked all involved for their input.
“The loss of the Kotuku was a tragedy and our sincere sympathies go to all the whanau, families and friends of all of those who were lost. We thank them for their courage and their help in assisting us during what has been a long and difficult process for all involved. We now hope that the release of the report now brings some measure of closure.”
Ms Taylor said its report followed one of the most intensive investigations ever undertaken by MNZ, which had involved gathering and analysing a huge amount of information. This had included independent technical and scientific evidence, along with accounts from survivors and information from skippers who were experienced at working in Foveaux Strait.
“Among the evidence collected by MNZ were tests of the recovered vessel by an independent maritime expert, who found the Kotuku was seaworthy and compliant with all stability requirements prior to her loss,” Ms Taylor said. “This latest evidence needs to be considered in light of two separate tests conducted by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), which each reached different conclusions – and which the Commission itself accepted could therefore not be relied upon.
“MNZ believes the inconsistency of the results reflects the difficulty experienced by both authorities in assessing the seaworthiness of the vessel after the accident. This was due to the Kotuku being badly damaged after sinking and saturated after spending a week on the sea floor, prior to it being transported via road and subjected to further tests while drying out in the open air.”
Ms Taylor said while TAIC’s report had focused on aspects of the maritime regulatory system, MNZ’s focus had been on sharing safety lessons learned from the accident with the maritime industry.
“The point of any accident investigation by MNZ is not to apportion blame, but to learn from mistakes so that we can do things better in future to help prevent them from happening to anyone else.”
A significant amount of work had been done by MNZ to ensure important safety messages arising out of the accident were communicated to others in the industry, she said.
This included the release of industry-wide safety bulletins and ongoing work with representatives from the Bluff fishing community and local iwi prior to the muttonbird season, to raise awareness and help foster a good safety culture.
Ms Taylor said MNZ had already closed out two of the six safety recommendations made to it by TAIC in its report, with progress on the remainder well advanced.
“Various independent reviews of MNZ’s Safe Ship Management System undertaken before the accident found that while the system was sound, there were elements that needed improvement. MNZ recognised this and was already in the process of addressing many of these issues prior to this accident and the subsequent recommendations made by TAIC. This is part of MNZ’s ongoing commitment to reviewing and improving its safety systems and processes. The maritime industry supports these actions and the leadership MNZ is providing to improve safety in the sector.”
Ms Taylor said a range of work to improve safety across the sector was ongoing.
“MNZ is absolutely committed to a safe maritime sector, which relies 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.
“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.”
MEDIA NOTE: A FULL COPY OF THE FINAL REPORT IS AVAILABLE ON THE MNZ WEBSITE: MEDIA NOTE: A FULL COPY OF THE FINAL REPORT IS AVAILABLE ON THE MNZ WEBSITE: www.maritimenz.govt.nz