Spotlight on log carrier ship safety after spate of near deaths

Log carrier ship Pakhoi. Credit: Gary McLeod

One near death, one near miss, and one ship adrift – log carriers have been under the safety spotlight in New Zealand ports this week.

On 9 July 2020, the Auckland District Court fined C3 Limited, a Tauranga-based stevedoring company, NZD240,000 (USD157,000) after the ship’s crane dropped a 15-tonne excavator, narrowly missing five workers on the wharf below.

On the same day, the court also fined China Navigation Company Pte Ltd NZD24,000 and repatriations of NZD30,000, after a dock worker fell from the log carrier Pakhoi. Previously, on 6 July the log carrier Funing-9690913 suffered an engine failure while leaving the Port of Tauranga for China, and had to be towed to safe anchorage.

In the case of Pakhoi, a 28-year-old dock worker fell 8 m onto a concrete wharf after a handrail broke due to poor maintenance in July 2017. The handrail had already been damaged, on 19 December 2017, and was improperly repaired while the ship was docked in India. The December incident caused a waterside worker to fall and he sustained several broken and shattered bones in his legs and arms.

China Navigation, which is based in Singapore, was charged under the Maritime Transport Act and pleaded guilty.

The court found the repair work was poor and did not comply with required standards. Nor did the master of the vessel or crew report the fault when the ship arrived in New Zealand.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) also charged the man’s employer, ISO Limited, a stevedoring company in Mount Maunganui, under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

ISO Limited has supported the stevedore and his family since the accident. It has agreed to invest in programmes to improve health and safety in the workplace.

“Shipping companies and other employers will be held to account if they operate a ship in a way that risks injuring or endangering workers and other people in New Zealand,” said Michael-Paul Abbott, compliance manager, MNZ central region.