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Authorities need to toughen up

Monday 4 October 2004

Authorities need to toughen up

Maritime Union says authorities need to toughen up on ferry failures now ­ before the worst case scenario

The Maritime Union says that a proposed inhouse investigation into serious equipment failure onboard the Cook Strait Ferry ŒAratere¹ is a copout by authorities.

Maritime Union Wellington Seafarers¹ Branch Secretary Mike Williams says crew aboard the ferry were horrified to read today that the Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) says the ŒAratere¹ can go back to automatic steering once an internal investigation is carried out by owners Toll Shipping.

"This is not acceptable for the safety of the crew and passengers, and for such a serious incident a full and independent inquiry needs to be carried out," says Mr Williams.

The Cook Strait ferry Aratere is under investigation after the automatic steering system failed last week.

The MSA said the Aratere was within half a minute of a serious incident or possible grounding on the evening of Wednesday 29 September 2004 at the entrance to the Tory Channel at the top of the South Island.

Mr Williams says the initial MSA decision last week to require the ŒAratere¹ be hand steered until the fault was identified was correct, but the Maritime Union believed that hand steering should be mandatory given the difficult nature of the Cook Strait and previous maritime disasters including the 'Wahine' (1968) and the 'Mikhail Lermontov' (1986).

"For four decades all ferries on the Cook Strait have all been hand steered in harbour limits and it is paramount that Toll employs quartermasters to steer the vessel in harbour limits."

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Mr Williams says the ŒAratere¹ has had a history of electrical problems since her maiden voyage from Spain in 1999.

"These incidents have included power failures, engine problems and other technical problems, and the Maritime Union stance on the matter is that a proper investigation and precautions now are far more preferable than waiting for a worse case scenario to occur."


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