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Common Passage Plan Coming For Commercial Vessels In Sounds

A new common passage plan to standardise the route all large commercial ships take through the Marlborough Sounds is a great example of collaboration, says Council’s Harbourmaster.

“This project has only been made possible due to the positive collaboration between the various parties to ensure that the changes made to achieve a common passage plan are achievable for users,” Harbourmaster Captain Jake Oliver said.

The Marlborough Common Passage Plan has been developed by the Harbourmaster in consultation with Port Marlborough NZ, Interislander and Bluebridge ferry operators and was presented to Council’s Environment and Planning Committee today. It will take effect from 1 April with a transition period for shipping operators to adopt the new plan up to 31 July. Monitoring will take place from August to September.

“A passage plan outlines a vessel’s voyage from berth to berth - from the time it leaves the dock or harbour, the voyage itself and through to approaching its destination and mooring,” Captain Oliver said.

The project began under former Harbourmaster Luke Grogan and stemmed from a need to define the water space required for commercial shipping within the Marlborough Sounds. A report produced in 2020 also identified opportunities to assist with risk management in Kura Te Au/Tory Channel and one recommendation was to consolidate the passage plans used by the ferry operators so that a common approach is followed by all ships and pilots.

There are currently three operational passage plans within Tōtaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound - one for Bluebridge and Interislander, and a third for Port Marlborough. Although the passage plans are similar, there are differences between them, Captain Oliver said.

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“As ferries develop and boat traffic in the Sounds increases, there is a need for a common passage plan which standardises the routes these large commercial ships take. This helps Council in its statutory role to regulate navigation safety but also gives the operators a shared understanding of how other ships travel through the Sounds,” Captain Oliver said.

“Because the route for ships will be the same under the new common passage plan, it also allows us to publish these for the benefit of other users,” he said.

Captain Oliver said the common passage plan also meant reviews of navigation aids – signals or markers – used in the Sounds would be easier and more effective as a result and it would continue to develop pre-pilotage communications for ships.

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