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Maximum Vessel Lengths For Tory Channel Established

For the safety of vessels, their crew and cargo, the Marlborough Harbourmaster has issued a direction that sets a maximum length of 187 metres for any new vessels looking to use the Tory Channel/Kura Te Au, to access Marlborough ports at Picton and Shakespeare Bay. All vessels currently using the Channel are at or under this length.

Marlborough Harbourmaster Jake Oliver said the entrance to the Tory Channel is narrow and tidal, so is challenging to navigate, with the risk of an incident increasing with longer vessels.

“Safety is central to the work a Harbourmaster does,” he said. “The maximum length of 187 metres for the Channel is based on an indepth navigation safety risk assessment looking at past vessel crossings, vessel risk management documents and relevant Transport Accident Investigation Commission reports,” he said.

“We know from our review that vessels at and under 187 metres can travel through the Channel safely. The only time these vessels wouldn’t use the Channel is if they have an issue while crossing the Cook Strait, such as a malfunction of navigation equipment, steering system or propulsion engines – anything that could mean their journey through the Channel is dangerous - making the Northern Entrance route the safer option.

“This direction is about preparing for the future, for when companies look to invest in new vessels,” he said. “It means that companies with vessels over this length will use the Northern Entrance to dock at Picton or Shakespeare Bay, just like some heavy vessels are required to now, or work with us on safety management plans for using Tory Channel.”

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In addition, the Harbourmaster is initiating a risk assessment programme for six older vessels that currently use the Channel.

“As vessels age, they are at higher risk of having mechanical problems,” he said. “By working together with the companies on risk assessments for these older vessels, we can proactively manage any potential risks when they use the Channel.”

The Harbourmaster can vary the rules in this Direction for a vessel or specific class of vessels. This will be done on a case by case basis however and only where the overall standards of maritime safety are not diminished.

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