Part 2: Background

Maritime Safety Authority: Progress in implementing recommendations of the Review of Safe Ship Management Systems.

In this Part, we provide background information on:

The Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand

The MSA is a Crown entity established in August 1993. Its main role is to promote maritime safety, prevent marine pollution, provide maritime search and rescue response co-ordination and co-ordinate maritime security. From 1 July 2005, the MSA was renamed Maritime New Zealand.

As a Crown entity, the MSA is governed by an Authority of 5 members appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport. For the purposes of this report, we refer to the 5-person Authority as the MSA Board.

The MSA Board appoints the Director of Maritime Safety, who has independent statutory powers of enforcement under the Maritime Transport Act 1994. The Director is the employer of almost 130 permanent staff of the MSA.

The MSA’s functions relevant to our audit are to:

  • promote maritime safety;
  • license ships, their operation, and their crews;
  • provide maritime transport information and advice; and
  • investigate and review maritime transport accidents and incidents.

In addition, the Director’s statutory functions relevant to this audit are to:

  • control entry into the maritime transport system through the granting (and suspension or revocation) of maritime certificates;
  • enforce the provisions of the Maritime Transport Act, and the regulations and rules made under the Act;
  • monitor adherence within the maritime transport system to any regulatory requirements relating to safety; and
  • ensure regular reviews of the maritime transport system to promote the improvement and development of its safety.

MSA staff members also oversee the services provided (under delegated authority of the Director) by private organisations in the area of maritime safety management systems, which replaced the traditional survey of ships in 1998.

Development of Safe Ship Management and Safe Operational Plans

Before 1998, the MSA required vessels to be surveyed once a year by private survey providers under powers delegated by the Director. The annual survey approach meant, in effect, that vessels were known to be safe only on the day of survey.

In 1998, a new system called Safe Ship Management was introduced for domestic commercial ships, such as fishing, small passenger and small cargo vessels, operating in inland and coastal waters in New Zealand (see paragraphs 2.14-2.23).

The new system incorporated elements contained within the draft (at that time) International Safety Management (ISM) Code for large ships that trade internationally, and simplified these for application to commercial domestic ships (for example, fishing vessels, tugs, work boats and the Auckland ferries). It focused on prevention, and having a positive safety culture aimed to ensure that commercial vessels were maintained and operated safely throughout the year and not just on survey day.

The Safe Operational Plans system was progressively introduced from 1999 for smaller commercial vessels such as maritime adventure craft, dive boats and small fishing boats (see paragraphs 2.24-2.27).

Safe Ship Management and Safe Operational Plans comprise 2 of the 3 core business areas in the MSA’s Safety Management Systems, as shown in Figure 1. The other area, International Safety Management (ISM), covers the safety of ships operating internationally, both New Zealand-owned vessels and foreign-flagged vessels visiting New Zealand, which are known as SOLAS or (Safety of Life at Sea) vessels.

The MSA’s involvement in managing ISM on vessels which are not New Zealand-owned or flagged is restricted to inspection only, using internationally agreed standards. These inspections are known as Port State Control, and is practised by most countries that have international ships trading to them.

Figure 1 - The MSA’s Safe Ship Management System

Figure 1.

What is Safe Ship Management?

Safe Ship Management requires ship operators to have, and follow, an operating manual – the safety manual – that specifies the procedures necessary to ensure that the ship is safely operated, identifies limitations on areas of operations, and identifies the training/qualification requirements for ship crews. Inspections and surveys of the physical condition of the ship and audits of the safety systems are carried out by private service providers (called SSM companies) to ensure that the vessel’s safety is being maintained. A certificate is issued by the SSM company if the physical condition and safety systems are satisfactory. Out-of-water inspections are generally carried out generally every 2 years, and in-depth system audits are carried out 6 months either side of that inspection.

In essence, Safe Ship Management is a structured and documented safety system that records everyday safety procedures and ensures that all crew are trained to follow them. SSM puts the onus on commercial operators to ensure that they are operating their vessels safely at all times, not just at the predetermined survey date.

Every aspect of a vessel and its operations is covered. This includes its construction, stability, equipment, operating limits, operating parameters, the qualifications and training of its crew, vessel maintenance, and emergency procedures.

SSM companies ensure that the manuals are in place and being followed; for example, they monitor that a vessel’s safety systems are properly maintained. A commercial vessel operator, with the guidance of an SSM company, documents all vessel safety procedures in a safety manual, and ensures that all members of the crew are trained to follow these procedures.

This includes using audits and inspections to check that there are appropriate safety equipment, safety manuals, and safe operating procedures on board, and that ships are complying with both the safety manual and the procedures.

If the vessel’s safety systems are found to be satisfactory, the SSM company issues a Safe Ship Management Certificate (SSM Certificate). This certificate is a vessel’s maritime document and replaces the survey certificate. Commercial operators cannot operate legally without a current SSM Certificate.

After each inspection or audit, or after a significant event such as an accident or change of ownership, the vessel’s safety profile is assessed. Higher risk vessels are inspected more often, and MSA inspectors are empowered to conduct random spot checks to verify compliance with Safe Ship Management. SSM companies are periodically audited by the MSA.

Since 1998, Safe Ship Management has applied to every New Zealand vessel which is:

  • a fishing vessel; or
  • a commercial vessel, other than a fishing vessel, which does not proceed beyond restricted limits; or
  • a passenger vessel of less than 45 metres in length that proceeds beyond restricted limits, but not on an international voyage; or
  • a non-passenger vessel of less than 500 gross tonnes or less than 45 metres in length that proceeds beyond restricted limits; or
  • a barge which carries any persons during a voyage.

Safe Ship Management also applies to every foreign non-passenger ship of less than 500 gross tonnes or any foreign fishing vessel operating on the New Zealand coast.

As at 6 December 2005, 2980 commercial vessels were covered by Safe Ship Management (924 fishing vessels, 1341 passenger vessels, 710 non-passenger vessels, and 5 barges).

What is a Safe Operational Plan?

Safe Operational Plans were first introduced in 1999, a year after the introduction of Safe Ship Management. It is a scaled-down version of Safe Ship Management, designed to provide a practical and affordable set of safety requirements for the following small commercial boats:2

  • jet boats operating at planning speed on rivers;
  • white water rafts operating on rivers;
  • fishing vessels of 6-metres or less in length; and
  • recreational diving vessels of 6-metres or less in length.

A vessel’s Safe Operational Plan must be approved by an MSA-appointed Authorised Person or an MSA Safety Auditor.

When the Safety Auditor or Authorised Person is satisfied that a vessel’s Safe Operational Plan meets the MSA’s safety requirements, a Certificate of Compliance is issued Commercial operators cannot operate legally without a current Certificate of Compliance.

As at 6 December 2005, 548 vessels were covered by Safe Operational Plans (89 diving vessels, 331 fishing vessels, 50 jet boats, 54 rafts, 4 hovercrafts, and 20 others).

2: The main legal support for Safe Operational Plans is provided by Maritime Rule Part 80. It prescribes requirements for safety and a code of practice for commercial jet boats operating on rivers at planning speeds, and requirements for safety and a code of practice for commercial rafting on rivers. In both cases, the operators are required to have in place an approved Safe Operational Plan. Operations must be audited, and the plan must be approved by persons with relevant knowledge of the maritime industry, authorised by the Director of Maritime Safety. Part 80 came into force on 11 February 1999.

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