Pilot errors prompt action from NZ accident investigator

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 12 October 2018


A series of groundings in New Zealand waters, some involving passenger vessels, has prompted New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) to issue a warning and to add Navigation in pilotage waters to its Watchlist to focus the attention of regulators, operators, and training providers on solving the problem.

“Errors in navigation in pilotage waters carry the risk of serious consequences for people, the environment, and the economy,” said Chief Commissioner Jane Meares.

Nz Ship Grounding

Pilotage waters are those areas where (with a few exemptions) a ship must use the services of a maritime pilot -- an experienced and highly skilled sailor with detailed knowledge of a particular waterway.

“The Commission has investigated a number of recent incidents in pilotage waters where ships ran aground or contacted objects in the water. There were no serious injuries or damage, but all could have had severe consequences,” said Meares. “The common thread in these incidents is poor application of an international standard for safe navigation of a ship, bridge resource management. The phenomenon of the team on a ship’s bridge not applying an international standard is a safety issue of serious concern; it demands the immediate attention of regulators, operators, and training providers, so the Commission has created this new item for the TAIC Watchlist,” she added.

Among the groundings referred to were passenger vessel L’Austral’s contact with rock Snares Islands, 9 January 2017; passenger ship, Azamara Quest, contact Wheki Rock, Tory Channel, 27 January 2016 and bulk carrier, Molly Manx, grounding, Otago Harbour, 19 August 2016. TAIC safety recommendations were issued in all cases.

The TAIC Watchlist encourages regulators, operators, the NZ government – and the people involved in transport every day – to mitigate transport-related concerns of high social, economic or environmental risk; and systemic transport safety risks. As with all of its Watchlist items, TAIC consulted broadly – with the Ministry of Transport, Maritime New Zealand, the New Zealand Maritime Pilots Association, and the New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code.

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