Urgent recommendations concerning cruise ships and pilotage in Tory Channel

29 Aug 2016

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has issued two urgent recommendations concerning the risk assessment process for cruise ships using Tory Channel and the way Maritime New Zealand pilotage requirements are being interpreted.

The urgent recommendations stem from an on-going investigation by the Commission into the cruise ship Azamara Quest striking Wheki Rock inside Tory Channel entrance on 27 January this year.

The Commission’s Manager Surface Investigations Martin Harper said the inquiry into the Azamara Quest incident had identified two safety issues that should be urgently addressed.

“The current harbour risk assessment relies heavily on the standard operating procedures followed by the Cook Strait ferry operators as a means of mitigating the risk of collisions and groundings for passenger ferries.

“There are additional risks associated with cruise ships operating in pilotage waters that should be considered separately from ferry operations.

“Given this, the Commission recommends that the Marlborough District Council reviews its harbour risk assessment and considers additional risks posed by cruise ships using Tory Channel to access the port of Picton.”

Mr Harper said this review should take into account, but not be limited to the following factors:

  • The limited number of piloted ships using Tory Channel that made it difficult for harbour pilots to maintain currency;
  • Cruise ship crews may not be familiar with Tory Channel;
  • Harbour pilots will not necessarily be familiar with the manoeuvring characteristics and navigation equipment of ships they are piloting;
  • The short time available for a pilot and ship’s crew to form a cohesive bridge team; and
  • The coordination of cruise ship and passenger ferry traffic within Tory Channel

The second recommendation concerned the way Port Marlborough had been interpreting Maritime Rules Part 90: Pilotage.

“The rules specify the minimum number of transits a pilot must make within a defined period of time in order to remain current for a pilotage area.

“Port Marlborough has allowed trips the pilot makes in the port company’s pilot launch in order to board or leave ships to be counted as qualifying transits.  The Commission is questioning the appropriateness of likening a pilot being driven out to a ship in a small pilot launch with the difficulty and responsibility involved in piloting a large cruise ship through Tory Channel.”

The Commission issued a recommendation to the Director of Maritime New Zealand to: review Port Marlborough’s Port Safety Management System and ensure that it had appropriate procedures in place to meet the requirements of its Pilot Training and Proficiency Plan; and that the plan met the intent of Maritime Rules Part 90: Pilotage.

The Director accepted the recommendation and Maritime New Zealand is working with Marlborough District Council to ensure ‘clarity in relation to pilot currency’.

Mr Harper said the Council had also responded positively to the Commission saying cruise ships would not be able to use Tory Channel until ‘critical’ and ‘significant’ controls had been put in place.

29 Aug 16