Rena-like disasters narrowly avoided
Sat, 26 May 2012 6:01p.m.
By Brook Sabin
A 3 News investigation into maritime safety has uncovered almost 500 serious incidents involving commercial vessels in the past two years.
That includes groundings, significant near misses, and serious mechanical breakdowns.
Even yesterday, as the captain and first mate of the Rena were being sentenced, a clipper ship operating under a Panamanian flag sailed through the exclusion zone around the astrolabe reef.
Now one maritime expert says another disaster is just waiting to happen.
Could a Rena-like accident happen again?
3 News has obtained from Maritime New Zealand a significant list of nearly 500 serious safety incidents involving commercial vessels and passenger boats in just the past two years.
This report focuses on groundings.
“The evidence is that the Rena is waiting to happen in many places around the coast, time and again,” says maritime safety consultant John Riding.
The list obtained by 3 News outlines 12 ship groundings in the past two years.
That includes a ship that had an engine fail while entering the Manukau Harbour and hit an outcrop of rocks.
While departing Tauranga, another ship ran aground, breaching the hull.
In Golden Bay, a ship grounded, resulting in the first mate being stood down for not following orders.
In Lyttelton, a cargo ship exiting the harbour ran aground after losing power.
“This is deeply concerning,” says Greens MP Gareth Hughes. “This information shows 12 groundings and a number of near misses, and as we've seen with the Rena it's the taxpayer who picks up the tab.”
But John Riding says there is a much more troubling problem going unreported.
He has tracked ships travelling up and down our coast and says too many come too close to shore.
That's concerning, because navigation charts date back 50 years.
“Those surveys developed back in the 1960s are only accurate to 100m, and we now have ships that are navigating to accuracy of 1m by satellite,” says Mr Riding.
There was one case of a cruise ship tracking very close to the Mercury Islands.
Mr Riding likens it to the recent cruise ship catastrophe off the coast of Italy.
“This is a Costa Concordia waiting to happen,” he says.
Mr Riding wants to see compulsory shipping lanes introduced, which he says would dramatically reduce the risk.
But other experts disagree.
“We don't believe that they'll add very much to safety in shipping,” says Captain Tim Wilson of the New Zealand Maritime School. “Traffic density in New Zealand is actually very low.”
Maritime New Zealand released a statement saying all ship groundings, no matter how minor, are a concern, and they are considering mandatory shipping lanes.
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27/05/2012 4:49:35 p.m.
Ian McNeill wrote:
Maritime New Zealand should also be charged with this grounding. It's job is to make sure dangerous reefs etc are properly marked by a beacon. This reef is close to a busy shipping lane into one of our busiest ports and not a thing on it. Imagine coming into Auckland Harbour and no Bean Rock beacon. Maritime NZ have failed in their job and are busy ducking for cover.
27/05/2012 1:16:34 a.m.
common sense wrote:
This article is misleading and scaremongering aimed at an ignorant public. Saying ships navigate to 1m accuracy on charts accurate to 100m is misleeding. Although some GPS are accurate to 1m, seeing as many of these ships are over 300m long and obviously navigating to within 1m would be like driving your car to a 1mm accuracy. Many of the incidents in the 500 are non issues that are required by Maitime NZ to be reported and are considered by them as serious to justify there existance and are openly available for anyone to view on there website. Hardly what Id call an investigation which sounds like someone is trying to cover something up.
26/05/2012 9:40:47 p.m.
Yes and dont forget the Pilots that see these ships away,also can create a disaster.like the Russian cruise ship in the sounds,the Cargo ship that left Timaru several years ago that ran up on a reef laden with wool,that was where the pilot left the ship too soon.Most the modern larger ships operate with GYRO where officer in charge, they will chart their course and will navigate it self.
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