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For many years, the council has operated the harbourmaster role in-house, with corporate service director Wayne Scott taking on the responsibility with backup from Port Otago.
However, the council was reassessing if that was the right model and examining the option of contracting the service out, Mr Scott said.
''We're in active discussions.''
Under the Local Government Act 1974, regional councils have the power to regulate shipping movements for the purpose of navigational safety.
As part of that they were required to manage and maintain the harbour, including managing any wrecks, and appoint a harbourmaster.
A harbourmaster was responsible for ensuring the harbour safety management system was functioning effectively independent of commercial interests.
It also had principal operational responsibility for the safety of navigation in the harbour, and exercising operational powers with respect to the safety of marine activities in the harbour and its approaches.
The regional council had advertised for a harbourmaster in the past but only as a part-time role and had not been successful in filling the role.
''It's hard to justify full-time employment,'' Mr Scott saidThe New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code said regional councils could appoint a port company employee as harbourmaster, as long as any conflicts of interest were worked out.
Environment Canterbury employs a harbourmaster, who as well as covering the ports of Lyttelton and Timaru also manages the coast and waterways safety section of the council and acts as the regional on-scene commander for marine spills.
In Southland, the regional council employs a harbourmaster and deputy harbourmaster, who are also part of the marine spill response team, act as regional on-scene commander and handle boating education.