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Holes bored to shorten ship

Holes bored to shorten ship
A New Zealand shipping company has been allowed to drill holes in the bow of a coastal freighter to get around international safety rules for a ship of that size.

A New Zealand shipping company has been allowed to drill holes in the bow of a coastal freighter to get around international safety rules for a ship of that size.

A New Zealand shipping company has been allowed to drill holes in the bow of a coastal freighter to get around international safety rules for a ship of that size.

The unorthodox modifications allow the cargo ship to be manned by fewer crew as it is now officially classified as smaller than it is.

Senior maritime industry figures say Maritime NZ's approval of the modifications made the country an international joke.

"This is extreme bending of the rules and I cannot see how they can get away with it," Auckland marine surveyor Hugh Munro said.

"I don't think anyone at the International Maritime Organisation would agree with this."

Coastal Bulk Shipping's fertiliser carrier Anatoki is 48.6 metres long.

But Maritime NZ has allowed it to be classed as shorter than 45m after holes were drilled at the front to create a "false" bow. A new watertight bow was fitted several metres further back so the ship now officially measures only 45m.

Maritime rules say ships longer than 45m must adopt mandatory international shore and ship safety and pollution prevention systems.

Ships longer than 45m are also required to have more crew, with higher qualifications.

Smaller ships are subject to less stringent safety systems managed by an organisation approved by Maritime NZ.

John Mansell, Maritime NZ operations general manager, rejected criticism of the safety agency's decision, saying the ship complied with "all required New Zealand standards ... consistent with international safety conventions."

The "false bow" was stronger than the previous bow because of watertight internal modifications behind the holes, Mr Mansell said.

The ship's owners also rejected the criticism. Doug Smith, general manager of Coastal Bulk Shipping, said the ship had previously operated in Japan under a different interpretation of international shipping rules to New Zealand's.

"We never intended shortening [the Anatoki] but we were left with no choice ... we were stuck with a vessel we could not operate."

A naval architect had produced the plans to create the new bow and Maritime NZ were "reasonably supportive" in agreeing to the modifications.

Mr Smith said some in the maritime community claimed the bow change was done to allow the company to cut crew numbers.

The ship operated in Japan with a crew of three, whereas in New Zealand it operated with four crew, with Maritime NZ agreement.

Had the agency not approved the modifications, the ship would have required a crew of at least seven, Mr Smith said.

The modifications have bemused Niels Bjorn Mortensen, marine department head of the world's largest private shipping organisation, Bimco. "I suggest that the holes drilled in the original bow be named `loopholes'," Mr Bjorn Mortensen said.

Mr Munro, speaking personally and not on behalf of the surveying company he works for, said drilling holes in a ship "doesn't change the length of the vessel".

"Rules are rules, as Maritime NZ keep ramming down our throats." He agreed with other senior maritime industry sources that the matter made New Zealand a laughing stock.

But Mr Mansell disputed this, saying New Zealand had an excellent reputation for maintaining very high safety standards. The modifications to the Anatoki met all New Zealand's safety regulations for a coastal freighter, he said.


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