'Earnslaw' earns safety tick

Presiding at the presentation of an operator safety certificate for Real Journeys TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown yesterday are the company's chief executive Richard Lauder (left) and Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch. Photo by Guy Williams.
Presiding at the presentation of an operator safety certificate for Real Journeys TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown yesterday are the company's chief executive Richard Lauder (left) and Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch. Photo by Guy Williams.
TSS Earnslaw has become the first passenger vessel in New Zealand to be certified under a new national safety regime.

After two months out of the water for maintenance and another week to her test her engines, the ''Lady of the Lake'' will resume passenger operations today, the day after being officially certified under the new Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS).

In what is being described as the biggest change in New Zealand commercial shipping in 15 years, operators must now develop a safety system covering not only their vessels, but their entire operations.

Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch said the system was expected to increase safety and reduce the number of boating-related injuries and fatalities in the commercial and tourism sectors.

The new regime came into effect on July 1, and about 2000 commercial operators would make the transition to MOSS over the next four years.

Under the former Safe Ship Management system, operators were required to use a third party to develop a safety system for their vessels, Mr Manch said. The new system removed that requirement and placed the onus on operators to take direct control of their safety operating practices on a day-to-day basis.

''It enables Maritime New Zealand to ensure that the level of safety standards are consistent around the country, and it gives us a much stronger connection with operators.''

Richard Lauder, chief executive of Earnslaw operator Real Journeys, said it was a ''neat twist of fate'' that the oldest of its 23 vessels was the first to be certified under the new system.

The transition to MOSS had resulted in changes to management systems, rather than physical changes on the vessel.

The new system struck the right balance between ensuring operators took control of developing and implementing their own safety system, and Maritime New Zealand having the right amount of regulatory oversight, he said.

Earnslaw has spent the past two months on its Kelvin Heights slipway as part of an annual maintenance survey unrelated to the new safety system. As part of the survey, 22 tonnes of new marine steel has been welded to the vessel's hull to replace old plating.