Offshore oil and gas safety needs immediate action

The Maritime Union says the Government needs to boost its monitoring and enforcement of safety regulations for the offshore oil and gas industry.

A Government review released last week found the Department of Labour inspectorate responsible for the sector is significantly under-resourced.

One inspector covers offshore and onshore oil exploration for the entire country, a much lower level of coverage than in countries such as Australia, the UK and Norway.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says it is a high risk industry, which is a major part of the New Zealand economy and will become a bigger part.

The Union was heavily involved in the offshore oil and gas sector, which had great potential, but only if the highest standards were in place.

The Maritime Union would be making submissions in response to the Government report.

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union is sending a clear message to the Government.

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee had stated the Government would like compliance to be “as efficient as possible” but the Maritime Union wanted compliance to be “as effective as possible.”

“Efficiency in our industry is a code word for saving dollars as far as we are concerned. We want effective compliance that works, and if doing it right costs more money, slows things down and is inconvenient to the Government or any employer, then too bad. The cost of getting it wrong is just far too high.”

The Maritime Union has been pressing for tighter regulations in the maritime sector.

“This includes all aspects of safety, all the way from correct use of gangway nets through to the seaworthiness of vessels and conditions of crews, and availability of response vessels for emergency situations. This extends through to the offshore sector.”

The number of deaths and injuries in the maritime and mining sector was high. The offshore oil and gas industry combined the risk factors for both industries.

2010 has seen a substantial number of deaths and injuries on board foreign vessels both in ports and working in and around the New Zealand coast and waters, as well as the recent Pike River disaster.

“We are a proactive Union – we want the regulations and monitoring to be at top standard before any incident, not in response to things that go wrong when it is too late.”

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