Navigation safety role passes to Port Nelson

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 13/11/2012

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Port Nelson is now officially responsible for navigation safety on Nelson harbour, which will give more tools to the harbourmaster to manage leisurecraft.

It will also define more clearly liability and insurance issues in the event of a major mishap on the harbour.

The port company is jointly owned by the Nelson and Tasman councils. The city council is required by law to be responsible for navigation safety within the coastal waters of the city.

Delivery of this function has until now been informal with the port company allowing an appropriately qualified manager to act as harbourmaster when needed.

The council and port company have been "increasingly aware" of the risks of this arrangement, and that the council might have been in a position whereby it was not carrying out a key statutory function.

Voluntary launch wardens have helped monitor safety on the harbour among recreational boaties, but the council said in a report that the "present informal arrangements for harbour safety do not serve the Nelson community well".

It said there were "significant liability and insurance issues" around the navigation safety function, which needed to be on a formal and proper footing.

A specialist's report to the council in 2008 said the harbourmaster's role in Nelson had been focused mainly on commercial shipping while leisure boating had "gradually developed a risk profile of its own" and had not been the focus of the harbourmaster's attention.

The report said there was a "clear need" to manage leisure use of the harbour, which was continually growing.

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.

In 2009 the council funded the purchase of a boat allowing the harbourmaster a better presence on the water.

This year the council confirmed the delegation of responsibility for navigation safety to Port Nelson, subject to resolution by the port company's board and establishment of a formal agreement between the council and Port Nelson, which has been confirmed.

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- The Nelson Mail

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