The Maritime Union says there needs to be a tightening up on Flag of Convenience ships coming into New Zealand waters before there is another disaster.
The Panamanian flagged log ship Achilles Bulker is anchored off Mount Maunganui after its rudder fell off on 24 July.
The Achilles Bulker was leaving Tauranga under pilotage when the incident occurred. The rudder has been recovered by divers and brought to shore.
The ship has been detained by industry regulator Maritime New Zealand pending investigation and will need to be towed to a dry dock for repairs.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says it is an unusual and extremely concerning event.
Mr Harrison says the sudden loss of control on a fully laden vessel of this size could have catastrophic results.
“This situation could have ended very badly if it had occurred in bad weather conditions.”
He says the quality of Flag of Convenience ‘ships of shame’ coming onto the New Zealand coast had been an ongoing problem for decades.
Mr Harrison says building up a high quality New Zealand coastal fleet is an important priority for ensuring safer shipping, as well as more rigorous inspections of international Flag of Convenience vessels.
A Flag of Convenience (FOC) ship is one that flies the flag of a country other than the country of ownership. Many FOC vessels are notorious for the issues around seaworthiness, substandard safety, and poor conditions for international crews.
Mr Harrison says Maritime New Zealand had acted quickly and appropriately in their response, but questions have to be asked about how an incident like this was even possible.
Previous major incidents have occurred with Flag of Convenience ships sailing to or from New Zealand ports in recent years. These include the Rena grounding on the Astrolabe Reef in 2011 and the sinking of the livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 in 2020 en route from the Port of Napier to China.
The Achilles Bulker was built in 2003 and is beneficially owned in Taiwan by Sesoda Corp, and managed by Sincere Industrial Corp, also out of Taiwan.
There is no record of previous mechanical issues on the Achilles Bulker, but the vessel was brought to the attention of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) New Zealand inspectorate in February 2023, when the Master refused shore leave to crew due to concerns about COVID. The situation was resolved.