Change in shipping law needed to protect fuel security

The maritime sector says a simple change to maritime transport laws could protect New Zealand’s fuel security.

Following the controversial closure of the Marsden Point refinery, petrol companies plan to remove New Zealand’s coastal tankers in favour of overseas tankers, with no guarantee of reliability or backup plan if things go wrong.

Three organizations representing maritime professionals are calling for action to protect New Zealand’s fuel security –  the Maritime Union of New Zealand represents seafarers, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild represents ship’s masters and officers, and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association represents marine engineers.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the decision to remove coastal tankers will provide marginally higher profits to already profitable petrol companies at the cost of fuel security.

He says the important role of domestic shipping capability in the fuel supply chain must be preserved.

Mr Harrison says minor changes to section 198 of the Maritime Transport Act could direct New Zealand coastal tankers be given priority for coastal deliveries of oil.

This could mean using Marsden Point as a storage hub for New Zealand fuel supplies and maintaining the current two New Zealand flagged oil tankers.

Mr Harrison says dedicated New Zealand coastal tankers ensure fuel security through reliable scheduled visits to New Zealand regional ports.

He says current shipping delays with international vessels calling at New Zealand ports shows dependency on overseas shipping is a high risk to regional economies.

For example, a delay or interruption to delivery of fuel to South Island ports would create a huge issue with the primary sector’s ability to function, he says.

“Dedicated New Zealand coastal tankers provide a ready-made mobile storage facility, would be immediately available in event of local emergency to deliver fuel, and provide a back-up option if overseas shipping is disrupted.”

The unions are in talks with the New Zealand Government on the issue.

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