Council looks into maritime safety after ship grounding

Southland regional councillors are set to discuss maritime safety in greater detail following the grounding of a cruise ship in Doubtful Sound last month.

On January 24, the RealNZ-operated Fiordland Navigator ran aground with 67 crew and passengers on board.

They were forced to evacuate to nearby Deep Cove.

The boat was inspected and approved to recommence trips later that month.

During discussion at an Environment Southland meeting last Thursday, chief executive Wilma Falconer suggested councillors workshop the organisation’s responsibility in relation to marine safety and bylaws.

"Fiordland is a very, very large area.

"I’d like to think that Southland actually has the largest marine area to manage," Ms Falconer said.

"We are remote and the country does not have a lot of vessels able and close to these remote coastlines to assist, should there be an emergency."

The chief executive report prepared for last Thursday’s meeting said the harbourmaster would be briefed on the outcome of an investigation on the incident, undertaken by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Maritime NZ.

Cr Peter McDonald questioned if the council should play a larger part in the investigation.

"To be briefed sounds pretty low level for an organisation that has a lot of responsibility around these matters," he said.

Ms Falconer said she expected the briefing to be collaborative.

The report said Fiordland Navigator would remain in Doubtful/Thompson Sound until the end of the season, in May, before relocating to Bluff for scheduled maintenance.

It also included an update on boating safety, saying behaviour had been good over the holiday period, with only "a few reminders to boaties around safe boating practices".

An update on the cruise ship season said there had been 55 visits to Fiordland and 15 visits to Stewart Island, the last visit scheduled for April 6. — LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.