Port risks in the spotlight
A recommendation is to be made to the city council on whether Port Nelson or the council would be responsible in the event of a disaster at the port, councillor Ian Barker said today.
The audit, risk and finance committee he chairs held confidential talks with Port Nelson staff yesterday on what Mr Barker described before the meeting as a "basic operating agreement" between Port Nelson Ltd and its shareholder, the Nelson City Council.
A comprehensive upgrade to the navigation safety bylaws aimed at introducing new plans for safe craft passage through Nelson Harbour has been under way for more than two years.
The writer of a risk assessment report used to help form guidelines around safety and risk management in Nelson, marine consultant John Riding, said after presenting the report to the city council in 2008, that the rules were also designed to reduce the risk of a big ship running aground, the cost of which could be astronomical.
Mr Riding said in the event of a grounding the port company and the council could be taken to court by a ship's owner and held responsible for the cost of any cleanup, reimbursement for damaged cargo and even the cost of loss of hireage of the vessel.
Port Nelson chief commercial officer Parke Pittar and harbourmaster Dave Duncan were at yesterday's council meeting to answer questions in relation to the delegation of navigation safety responsibilities to the port company.
Mr Duncan has been closely involved with council staff in helping with the development of the amended bylaw.
Mr Barker sought to have the matter discussed in the open part of the meeting, because he considered it to be a "basic operating agreement involving two men negotiating on behalf of Port Nelson".
He said today there was nothing contentious about the item discussed in private, on which agreement has been reached and a recommendation would now be going to the full council.
Mr Barker explained the item was discussed in confidential business because it involved negotiations between two organisations - the port company and its 50 per cent shareholder, the city council.
"Running a port involves huge risk of any sort of disaster and a very important matter that has to be resolved is which organisation accepts that risk," Mr Barker said.
He expected the council would discuss the item in open business, he said.
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