Doubtful Sound cruise ship grounding prompts council discussion

10:37 am on 10 February 2024
Fiordland Navigator.

The Fiordland Navigator. Photo: RealNZ / supplied

The recent grounding of a cruise ship in Doubtful Sound has prompted Southland regional councillors to discuss maritime safety in greater detail.

On January 24, RealNZ-operated Fiordland Navigator ran aground with 67 crew and passengers on board who were forced to evacuate to nearby Deep Cove.

The boat was inspected and approved to recommence trips later that month.

During discussion at an Environment Southland meeting on Thursday, chief executive Wilma Falconer suggested councillors workshop the organisation's responsibility in relation to marine safety and bylaws.

"Fiordland is a very, very large area. I'd like to think that Southland actually has the largest marine area to manage," Falconer said.

"We are remote and the country does not have a lot of vessels able and close to these remote coastlines to assist, should there be an emergency."

The chief executive report prepared for Thursday's meeting said the harbourmaster would be briefed on the outcome of a current investigation into the incident, which was being undertaken by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Maritime NZ.

Councillor Peter McDonald questioned if the council should play a larger part in the investigation.

"To be briefed sounds pretty low level for an organisation that has a lot of responsibility around these matters," he said.

Falconer said she expected the briefing to be collaborative.

The report said the Fiordland Navigator would remain in Doubtful/ Thompson Sound until the end of the current season in May before relocating to Bluff for scheduled maintenance.

It also included an update on boating safety, saying behaviour had been good over the Christmas and New Year period with "a few reminders to boaties around safe boating practices".

An update on the cruise ship season said there had been 55 visits to Fiordland and 15 visits to Stewart Island with the last visit scheduled for 6 April.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs