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In the year since the Rena grounding, New Zealand's worst environmental maritime disaster, there have been 11 "near miss" incidents in our waters, the Green Party said today.
"The Government is downplaying the risk of further accidents like the Rena and isn't focusing on how to make coastal shipping safer," said Green Party oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes.
"The number of near miss incidents by ships in our waters highlights the folly of Government inaction to improve the safety of coastal shipping."
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told the Green Party in answers to written questions that during the period between 5 October 2011 and 26 September 2012, Maritime New Zealand was notified of 11 near miss incidents, including four container ships and two other cargo vessels. The term "near miss" refers to any incident where a crash was avoided by luck or recovery.
"With the number of near misses since the Rena, it appears the Government is relying on luck, rather than good regulation, to keep us safe from cargo ship crashes," said Mr Hughes.
"The Rena captain himself has recommended the use of compulsory shipping lanes but the Government has rejected the idea without an inquiry into how we can improve our maritime regulations to make coastal shipping safer.
"Compulsory shipping lanes would be a cheap, effective solution to help avoid Rena-like disasters."
The Government implemented a review of Maritime New Zealand's operational response to the grounding of the Rena but ignored the Green Party's calls for a broad-based independent inquiry.
"The Green Party would implement higher standards for coastal shipping that supports the use of local ships and crews that know New Zealand waters and hazards," said Mr Hughes.
"We consider it is far safer if trained domestic crews who know New Zealand waters operate in them and we would investigate the best mechanism for making this happen."