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Source: Maritime Union of New Zealand

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed the release today of a combined report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) on two separate fatal accidents in New Zealand ports in 2022.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the Union endorses the findings of the report and its recommendations.

“This hard hitting report comes out of the tragic, unnecessary and untimely deaths of two loved and respected port workers simply going about their work.”

Mr Harrison says the Union agrees with the acknowledgement of the TAIC report that the stevedoring industry has a poor safety record, yet is not rigorously regulated compared to other high-risk industries.

The TAIC report found similarities in the lead up to the fatal accidents, where both employers had been improving their safety systems, but had common deficiencies.

The report noted with no best practice guidelines, no minimum training requirements and few safety-related information-sharing platforms, industry sector leadership was lacking.

The report also emphasized the importance of proactive regulatory oversight of high-risk industries, particularly those with a poor safety record.

Mr Harrison says many of the issues noted in the report were the outcomes of decades of industry deregulation, where the voice of workers had been silenced in favour of commercial priorities.

He says there is now a shift, as progress around health and safety had been made recently in the industry with the support of the outgoing Government.

The creation of a Port Health and Safety Leadership Group (PHSLG) under the leadership of Maritime New Zealand had brought in employers and union worker representatives, he says.

Primary responsibility for most areas of port health and safety is in the process of being designated as under the oversight of Maritime New Zealand, whereas it was previously divided between two regulators.

Mr Harrison says the current development of a national Approved Code of Practice for port operations with the input of the PHSLG was another major step.

A Stevedoring Code of Practice was already in place at Port of Auckland, that had been put together by POAL, two private stevedoring companies, and the Maritime Union.

Mr Harrison says this contrasts with previous management at the Port which had not engaged with the Union.  

This progress went some way to meet the TAIC report call for industry collaboration and benchmarking improve safety standards, he says.

Mr Harrison says the cost to get change has been far too high, and workers needed to organize and unionize to ensure their safety and wellbeing came first on the job.

“We are concerned the new Government does not attempt to return to the failed industry deregulation and weak oversight of the past.”

Background details to TAIC report

The first accident occurred on 19 April 2022 at the Port of Auckland. A stevedore, working onboard the container vessel Capitaine Tasman, moved underneath a suspended 40-foot container and suffered crush injuries as a result of the container being lowered onto them. The stevedore was employed by Wallace Investments Limited (WIL), an independent stevedoring company operating at the Port of Auckland.

The second accident occurred at Lyttelton Port on 25 April 2022. A stevedore, involved in the process of loading coal onto the bulk carrier ETG Aquarius, was discovered, deceased, on the deck of the vessel, buried under a quantity of coal. The stevedore was employed by the Lyttelton Port Company Limited (LPC).

In New Zealand, there have been 18 deaths amongst port workers since 2012, which is proportionally the second highest rate of fatalities of any industry sector within New Zealand.