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Laissez-faire disaster management

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, October 9th, 2011 - 60 comments
Categories: disaster, transport - Tags: ,

National’s handling of the Rena oil spill is fitting into the same depressing pattern as Pike River and Christchurch – hands off, leave it to the private sector, ministers trotting out excuses rather than leading. We’re even getting the mandatory Key photo-op today, doubtless accompanied by a hollow promise.

60 comments on “Laissez-faire disaster management”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Looking forward to …
    voting Key again?
    Coming to your rescue …
    John Key – the lazy fairy’s laissez faire

  2. tc 2

    this needs to be framed around the open slather approach theyve taken with the petrobas exploration permits with no consideration around the brazilian giant cleaning up after itself…….NZ going once, going twice….sold to the smile n wave clown’s mates and backers.

  3. queenstfarmer 3

    What a ridiculous – yet entirely predictable – assertion. Yes, it’s being “left to the private sector”. Yes, Maritime NZ has no involvement whatsoever. Yes, no-one is worrying about getting experts and cargo-747s full of specialist equipment in from around the world. Yes, no-one has set up wildlife rescue stations. Yes, the Govt has been playing down the seriousness of the situation.

    Just like those who were blaming the Govt for not overruling the experts and ordering rescuers into the Pike mine, shortly before it exploded a second time.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Just like those who were blaming the Govt for not overruling the experts and ordering rescuers into the Pike mine, shortly before it exploded a second time.

      You just made that up.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      You seem to miss the point. We shouldn’t need to import the experts and equipment, we should have them here on standby. We don’t because we left it to the “market” and the “market” got rid of the equipment and skills in the name of “efficiency”.

    • “Yes, it’s being “left to the private sector”.
      I’m glad you agree with that because it is true. As Kate Wilkinson said many, many times when asked by the Greens in Question Time about safety at Pike River, the primary and the initial responsibility rests not with the government but with the private sector.
      The assumption is the business will never do anything that is not in it’s own interests and will therefore comply with all legislative requirements. Bullshit!
      History has shown that a business will consider it a matter of self-interest to take unacceptable risks and break the law if they think they can get away with it, they will be working for another company when the shit hits the fan, and the insurance and/or the tax payer will pay for the clean-up.
      see: Bhopal; the Ford Pinto car; Love Canal and other chemical dumping; dumping of e-waste in Africa; planned obsolescence; contaminated water from fracking; Enron; American Airlines deferred maintenance; Chiquita Brands financing terrorists; Dole Pineapple kicking people off their land to grow pineapple for Americans; bribery cases by Siemens, BAE systems, Lockheed Martin; Exxon overreporting oil reserves; Enron manipulation of power failures in California; Compass Group bribing UN for business; Arthur Andersen reporting failure on Enron; Credit agencies selling “good credit” reports; Bre-X manipulating stock prices by saying they had found gold; Halliburtin overcharging government contracts; Northern Rock subprime morgages (in fact the whole mortgage back securities mess); accouting scandals by Adelphia, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Carrian Group, Citigroup, Bear Sterns, Credit Suisse First Boston; Duke Energy hiring “gun thugs” to intimidate workers
       
      The list could go on and on – stock manipulation, anti-trust, fraud, bad labour practices, environmental damages, public corruption, worker deaths, illegal disposal and transportation of hazardous wastes, poisoning, spying, illegally discharging pollutants, falsifying reports etc etc
       
      Given so much of the above, why would any sensible government assume that a laissez faire trust in business to always do the right things is an abrogation of its moral responsibility to protect its people and its environment.
      When time is of the essence a government cannot rely on business to do the right thing or to be timely. Not when so much is at stake.
      Imagine waiting for British Airways to organise an emergency response when one of its planes crashes at Auckland Airport! Poor passengers!
       
      While Wilkinson said it was up to business to deal with the shit they create, Hekia Parat went to great lengths to say we already had the equipment and could cope with an oil spill.

      Maritime New Zealand is responsible for ensuring New Zealand is prepared for, and able to respond to, marine oil spills. The Marine Pollution Response Service consists of internationally respected experts who manage and train a team of around 400 local government and Maritime New Zealand responders. New Zealand has equipment and other stores strategically located around New Zealand. In addition, the Marine Pollution Response Service assists regional councils with exercise and oil spill equipment. The plan is responsive and is regularly evaluated to ensure it meets changing risk profiles.
      Hansard – April 12 2011

      This is a Minister of the Crown telling the New Zealand people a lie!

      That in itself is reason for people in this forum to be pissed off!

    • Ianupnorth 3.4

      What cargo loads of 747’s, care to show me; last I heard it was an RNZAF C-130 going to Aussie for some gear,

      Yes the government have been having jolly helicopter rides and pictures of them with concerned faces talking to the pilots in the media.

  4. nice artwork

    National – it’s always someone else’s fault is a very good line and needs promoting loudly and often.

  5. deemac 5

    It is quite unbelievable that NZ has no contingency plan for an emergency like this. Every day that passes is a day lost. Leaving it to the ship owners is not good enough.
    BTW I do not remember anyone on the left calling on the govt to send rescuers into Pike River; that was the relatives, who had been made undeliverable promises by Key that encouraged their natural desire to get their loved ones back.

    • thejackal 5.1

      Some old miners said at the time they always went into a mine straight after an explosion if there were people to rescue. This is because the explosion uses up the combustible gasses. There was a window of opportunity of a couple of days I believe to enter Pike River mine before the second explosion, which ensured nobody else survived.

      The same missed opportunities are arising with the Rena disaster. A lack of proper equipment on call to clean up oil in the ocean being a major flaw in New Zealand’s response capabilities. Back in April this year, Heki Parata stated that oil clean up experts were in New Zealand and training some 400 people. So where are they now and why do we have to wait while experts fly in from overseas?

      Another question that needs to be asked is why has the STOLT VIOLET tanker ship not been employed to remove oil from the Rena. I believe the STOLT VIOLET was in Tauranga harbour when the Rena grounded, although websites are not currently displaying its recent port calls.

  6. KJT 6

    New Zealand will never have the money or resources to deal with a really serious oil spill. Even the USA could not cope.

    I got into trouble years ago for saying NZ’s oil spill response was laughable. It has not improved much since. Did get some capability transferred to Marsden point though. Instead of having to wait for all of it to get through Auckland traffic from Te Atatu to where it was needed.

    A 2 to 3000 ton spill of a shipwreck though is a predictable occurrence and should have have had plans in place to requisition the capability to sort it out ASAP.

    Especially as successive NZ Governments have been complicit in allowing ever increasing numbers of substandard shipping on our coast. Making accidents more likely.

    Shipping companies and shippers race for the bottom trying to use ever cheaper ships and crews does not make future accidents less likely.

    The flip side of pandering to farmers.

    The Jackal is not helping his credibility with hysteria about DG’s.
    DG’s packed properly in containers are a small proportion of the ships cargo and unlikely to be a risk. Even if the ship sinks we will have a long time to remove them before they start leaking.

    It was not a very edifying spectacle watching our dear leaders running around like headless chooks and wasting 4 days of calm weather. As a small NZ container ship with cranes 12 hours away at the time is now 3 days away. Large international ships are too deep draft to risk close.

    The Awanuia had to go back to Marsden point first to discharge her cargo, so it is unlikely she could have got there quickly.

    Containers vary from 24 tons for a 20′ to 30 tons for a 40′. Not many choppers can take that weight.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      A 2 to 3000 ton spill of a shipwreck though is a predictable occurrence and should have have had plans in place to requisition the capability to sort it out ASAP.

      Shouldn’t have to requisition it. It should be sitting there ready to go.

    • thejackal 6.2

      My “hysteria” might be put to rest if they released the full inventory of what Rena is carrying KJT. I wonder why they aren’t doing that… Could it be that the authorities don’t want people to know what the dangerous goods are for some reason?

      You say we will have a long time to rescue the thousand plus possibly damaged shipping containers from the ocean… what do you define as a long time? A couple of days, a week or perhaps a few months? What is the depth of the ocean around Astrolabe I wonder?

      • KJT 6.2.1

        Depths around Astrolobe reef vary from 13m to 60m.

        It doesn’t matter what the DG’s are. If they are packed in containers according to the rules for international carriage of DG’s, there is very little danger.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Nice to see contributors to the standard are experts in salvage management.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 7.1

      Ha ha… what was it Dirty Harry said about opinions….’ everybody has one’.

      A bit like after Pike River. Then again this likely a direct result of the total vacuum of information coming from official authorities who seem to have absoluely no idea what the plan is going to be.

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      Don’t need to be an ‘expert’ to recognise ‘fucking around for the first 24 hours’.

      • tsmithfield 7.2.1

        Perhaps you should be over there giving them your sage advice then.

        • Colonial Viper 7.2.1.1

          my chargeout rate is a reasonable $600 + GST/hr plus disbursements.

          • Tigger 7.2.1.1.1

            Wow CV that is reasonable compared to half those contractors the govt hired through Treasury in the last year!

          • tsmithfield 7.2.1.1.2

            Off you go then. I want the problem sorted by tomorrow please.

            • KJT 7.2.1.1.2.1

              Could have got the fuel off in the first 3 days. With resources already in Tauranga/Auckland.

              Mind you, as a specialist I charge $120/hour.

              However, there was already a competent person on the scene, with the legal powers required. She was probably not given the chance as the white hard hats arrived from Wellington and took over.

              • Colonial Viper

                Could have got the fuel off in the first 3 days. With resources already in Tauranga/Auckland.

                Now that fact is very very annoying.

          • mik e 7.2.1.1.3

            CV at that rate you would probably doe a better job the higher the pay the bigger the mess these consultants make

    • mik e 7.3

      Nice to see RWNJs bloggers Trying to shift the blame again

  8. hellonearthis 8

    Isn’t it part of National job creation program, look at all the low skilled jobs that would be created in cleaning up a decent oil spill and the bill goes to the shipping company. It’s a winner!

    • That was Marilyn Waring’s contention. These man-made environmental disasters push money around and can be accounted for as economic benefits – but there is no accounting value for the intrinsic value of the environment. So damage to the environment is not recorded as a countering cost against the recorded economic benefit.

  9. JAS 9

    “Jim” speaks again

    Might have to go enjoy some time on a clean beach this afternoon, if Jim’s right it might be the last time we can do it for a while…..

  10. Cloaca 10

    The ship’s Insurance Company finally pick up ALL the tabs for this disaster. In the first instance the Owner must do everything in its power to mitigate and try and contain as much of the loss as it can – hence first priority unload the oil and watch, and try and contain any spills. Thence unload the cargo.

    Jas – the beaches are fine – I was there an hour ago – great coffee also.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      The ship’s Insurance Company finally pick up ALL the tabs for this disaster.

      Including Mother Nature’s tab?

      Jas – the beaches are fine – I was there an hour ago – great coffee also.

      ? A reminder that the beaches were also fine after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Briefly fine.

  11. KJT 11

    I think we are all missing the real point anyway.

    Which is the reduction in safety standards both at sea and for offshore drilling because of the Neo-Liberal obsession with “competition” and “globalisation”.

    I.e. The cheapest in monetary terms, beats those with higher standards, to get the work..

    The best way of avioding the consequences of an oil spill, like a fire, is not to have one in the first place.

    [lprent: Might pay to disconnect and reconnect again to pick up a new dynamic IP. It looks to me like Akismet thinks that IP is the home of a spammer. I’ve had to rescue your comments out of spam several times today. ]

  12. fender 12

    Yeah come on shonkey pull out the throat slitting gesture again

  13. randal 13

    Well jerkey will get his picture in the paper flying around in a helicopter. again!

  14. hoom 14

    http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/ seems to be doing a reasonable job from what I see here.
    It takes time to get big equipment around though it seems like they may have been a bit slow on getting the fuel barge moving.
    Most recent update says they have 3 navy ships, international salvage experts, naval architects & a bunch of manpower/equipment in place.
    ———
    Since the Astrolabe Reef is by all accounts well charted, with no major obstacles around it & the ship has obviously hit at high speed in good weather, that makes it pretty likely that grounding was caused by negligence on the part of the crew.
    I doubt insurance includes coverage for that.
    Expect the shell company that leases the ship off the shell company which owns the ship & the shell company that pays the crew to have no tangible assets.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/ seems to be doing a reasonable job from what I see here.
      It takes time to get big equipment around though it seems like they may have been a bit slow on getting the fuel barge moving.

      First 2 days of press release updates from Maritime NZ say absolutely zip about getting cargo and oil off the ship. They do talk about managing and assessing some already spilt oil, saving some wildlife, and issuing legal notices against the owner of the vessel.

      It looks to me like the first 24-36 hours of good weather was a wasted opportunity focusing on the wrong things.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.2

      seems to be doing a reasonable job from what I see here.

      If they were/are doing so well then why wasn’t the ships fuel-oil taken off in the first day?

      It takes time to get big equipment around…

      Yes it does but why wasn’t there adequate emergency equipment at the port?
      When emergencies happen you need to respond immediately, not sometime next week.

      Most recent update says they have 3 navy ships, international salvage experts, naval architects & a bunch of manpower/equipment in place.

      The navy ships and personal I can understand but WTF do we need to import international salvage experts?
      We have a huge oceanic area that has a lot of ships operating within it all the time. These things are going to happen and so we need to be able to respond and that means we should have our own experts and gear.

      • insider 14.2.1

        “If they were/are doing so well then why wasn’t the ships fuel-oil taken off in the first day?”

        If it’s that easy, tell me what equipment and crew would be needed to do this and how you’d organise it? I bet there are not many people familiar with ship to ship transfers, especially in an emergency. I suspect the navy has the most open sea experience and then maybe the barge operators in Auckland (but that business is not really comparable). Te Kaha is off in Singapore on exercises so Endeavour may be with her so that expertise may not be on tap, let alone the vessel. The barge may not be suitable for open water operations.

        There is a compromise that has to be faced up to. We can’t afford to have a dozen or so ports around NZ stacked with equipment and personnel to deal with the full range of emergencies just in case. The focus in NZ is on mobilising people and equipment for protection of shorelines and rivers. So we have skimmers, booms, absorbant pads, storage containers, gumboots, shovels that kind of thing, plus dispersant chemicals and sprayers.

        We need international salvage experts and specialist equipment for those rarer and more specialised events. That’s why we are part of regional response organisations who can mobilise much bigger volumes of gear and expertise. I’d much rather have some guy from Singapore who does this for a living and has practical experience running this, than be distracted by false nationalism and leave it to a part timer from Maritime NZ or the local council, who balances doing spill response with other functions like issuing compliance certificates – and that is not a reflection on their dedication or talent.

        But no equipment anywhere is ever going to stop oil spreading if nature is against you. If the weather goes bad, it’s going to be a case of cleaning up not preventing. Doing that effectively is about planning not rushing in.

        • KJT 14.2.1.1

          Firstly. Accidents like this should be minimised by high standards of crew training, ship operations, ship maintenance, equipment and professionalism. Backed up by National regulators who take their responsibilities seriously. Instead of carpeting their butts with paper, secure in the knowledge they can always blame the mugs on the ships for their own lack of care.

          All of which has been abandoned in the race to allow the cheapest possible ships with the cheapest possible crews.

          After several years of decreasing ship accidents the rate is rising again as skilled ships officers become rare. Why take all the risks of arrest, piracy and fingure pointing when there are more comfortable and better paid jobs ashore. Not to mention working with people with dodgy or insufficient skills.
          Owners just want enough certificates to satisfy port State. They do not care where or how they are obtained.

          Even reputable companies have lowered standards to get costs down. They have to. To compete with the rest.

          Undermanned ships with barely skilled crews are common.

          Knowing that lower standards in shipping mean accidents like this are more likely, NZ Governments still gave into industry pressure to keep the oil levies down. (Oil levies on shipping pay for antipollution equipment).

          I agree that keeping enough gear for a large tanker spill could be unrealistic, but enough for a normal medium ships bunkers is not.

          As far as equipment goes presently.

          Awanuia does ship transfers all the time. They bunker ships in Auckland.

          Given some decisiveness, she could have been there in the time it takes to go back to Marsden point, discharge, pick up salvage pumps and get to Astrolobe.

          Failing that a bit of lateral thinking would have got tugs and barges there. I think at least one was heading for Portland with an empty cement barge.

          The last week has been calm.

          In NZ a calm for more than a week is unusual.

          Which should have told the powers that be, to get a wriggle on.

    • KJT 14.3

      Marine insurance does cover crew negligence or mistakes. Just like your car insurance.

      Probably find, like most accidents, it is a whole combination of things.

    • mik e 14.4

      The RENA has a history of not meeting safety requirements

  15. Smile and Wave

    John Key went to Tauranga today for yet another photo opportunity. He was talking tough while doing nothing to avert an escalation of what is already a major environmental disaster in the Bay of Plenty…

  16. Cloaca 16

    hoom –
    you are wrong – Insurance will pay for all the damage. Also they are very reputable owners MSC – the second largest shipping company in the world.

  17. thatguynz 17

    I’m rather surprised that no mention has been made of the use of Corexit 9500 as one of the first “solutions” attempted to clean up the spill… Notwithstanding the fact that it clearly didn’t work, it is also nasty nasty work. Some time spent reading about the purported Corexit effects from both the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills would suggest that we shouldn’t have this stuff anywhere near our waters/coastline..

    • hellonearthis 17.1

      I posted on the Greens blog about the use of Corexit and how it is band in the UK.
      The radioNZ interview I posted earlier here mentions the use of Corexit but it seemed like there only concern is if the oil reaches the beaches and no caring about the us this ultra toxic chemical in the marine environment.

      Like the USA oil spill as long as it looks ok it’s sweet as.

    • insider 17.2

      The fact it has been used for more than 20 years perhaps shows it is a useful tool in oil spills. It’s a balancing act – oil is toxic too and accumulates on shorelines so what is the least worst option? As Kerry says, the best option is to avoid in the first place but we aer beyond that now.

      • hellonearthis 17.2.1

        Yeah, but in the last 20 years there are less toxic alternatives developed that could be used.

        • insider 17.2.1.1

          It’s horses for courses. You are right there are a range of dispersants available of differing toxicity but they may not be as effective on this type of oil in these conditions. Like I said, it’s a balancing act and kneejerk bans may mean you have a worse environmental impact because you are left with a less effective response.

      • Colonial Viper 17.2.2

        Read the articles on the effects of the dispersant on the poil after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Definitely 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

        At least with oil in huge tacky gobs you can actually collect it up and get it off the beach and out of the sea, instead of floating in massive toxic volumes under the surface.

  18. numeric 18

    It is interesting to watch Joyce wrestle with the roles of politician (“disappointed with the opposition not asking me [about RENA]” on ONE’s Close Up today), running a thorough and dispassionate investigation which may involve liability by organisations for which he takes responsibility, and managing a real – and potentially political – disaster.

    Welcome to the real world ..

  19. Jenny 19

    May Day, May Day, May Day

    A message from the Rena this morning, as high seas pound the ship, saw the navy mounting what they call a multiple extraction (of personal).

  20. Jenny 20

    The the oil extraction barge has been damaged in the high seas, preventing any more oil being discharged.

    This all has the sad air of inevitability.

    It was good to see Phil Goff firing on all cylinders on the breakfast show this morning. Demanding to know why there was no action for (at least) 24 hours.

  21. Asshole of the Week Award – John Pfahlert

    It has been sad to see National MP’s trying to deflect any responsibility for the MV Rena disaster by blaming it solely on the Filipino crew. Although they hold some responsibility, many things have led up to this avoidable accident, insurance job or act of terrorism…

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