Maritime NZ has ‘moral obligation’

WELLINGTON – Maritime NZ is failing in its “moral obligation” to ensure old fishing boats leaving our ports are safe, industry groups say.

Stuff revealed last week how Tongans have been buying old fishing trawlers with Government loans, re-flagging them, and sailing them home with no inspections by New Zealand authorities.

Some have broken down and one was later abandoned at sea after a dramatic rescue, leaving the uninsured owner with no way of paying back his loan.

Most of the boats are not surveyed for international waters and its feared lives will be lost if authorities don’t take action. New Zealand’s area of responsibility for search and rescue extends to Tonga.

Tonga’s Marine Department says New Zealand should be inspecting the boats but Maritime NZ says once a vessel is re-flagged it’s no longer its responsibility.

Commercial boats under 24m don’t have to be registered and there is no requirement for Maritime NZ to be notified when they re-flag.

“We are very concerned about safety and we urge people to notify us in these cases.

“If we receive sufficient notice a maritime officer can inspect and detain the vessel if necessary,” a Maritime NZ spokesperson said.

But former National MP Annabel Young, executive director of coastal shipping lobby group the NZ Shipping Federation, said Maritime NZ needed to be proactive.

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