Milestone in NZ’s drive for ship-based crane safety

New Zealand is celebrating a significant victory at the International Maritime Organization in London.

After more than eight years work, member states have agreed there is a need for an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention covering onboard lifting appliances – cranes, loose gear and winches.

This month’s meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee saw a majority of member states in favour of amending the SOLAS convention to include requirements for lifting equipment, a proposal led by Maritime New Zealand delegates.

A SOLAS regulation will be developed around the design, construction and installation of onboard lifting appliances. In addition, these types of equipment will be maintained in accordance with guidelines that will also be developed to cover design, fabrication and construction; onboard procedures for routine inspection, maintenance and operation of lifting appliances and winches; and familiarisation of ship’s crew and shore-based personnel.

While New Zealand law currently addresses standards for lifting gear and enables action when a problem occurs in relation to foreign ships operating in New Zealand ports, the changes to SOLAS will lift standards internationally. This will work to prevent vessels arriving at New Zealand ports with inadequate lifting equipment, and strengthen Maritime New Zealand’s ability to deal with problems through Port State control mechanisms.

Maritime New Zealand staff have been striving since 2007 to get this work started after recording 334 incidents at New Zealand ports on foreign-flagged vessels between 2000 and 2007, of which 64 involved ships’ lifting appliances. Eighteen of these incidents involved serious injury.

Concerns about lifting gear on foreign-flagged vessels prompted a focused inspection campaign and the results were presented in 2007 to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee which instructed New Zealand to submit a request for a new work programme item.

In 2011, New Zealand successfully co-sponsored a proposal to add a work programme item to the IMO agenda to develop requirements for construction and installation of onboard lifting appliances.

Successful lobbying of members states on the issue by Maritime NZ resulted in this month’s outcome.

“This is a tribute to the commitment of Maritime NZ staff who identified an issue that required attention and persevered until it was agreed that SOLAS should be amended,” Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch said.

“The work will not be complete until an amendment to the SOLAS convention that covers lifting equipment is adopted but this is a significant milestone. I am confident this work will make the industry safer at ports all over the world.

“Failure of ship cargo handling appliances puts stevedores at risk, as well as the crew of foreign ships handling cargoes in NZ ports. New Zealand imports and exports are also at significant risk of damage due to lifting appliance failure, and this work will help reduce that risk.

“It is likely to take several years to finalise the changes to SOLAS but we have made a significant step in the right direction.”

Since January 2013, seven incidents involving lifting equipment have occurred in New Zealand ports with one resulting in a significant injury to a ship’s crew member.