New Zealand Unions Call for Safety Review After Two Cargo-Ops Deaths

File image courtesy Lyttelton Port Company

Published Apr 26, 2022 10:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

A stevedore was killed at the Port of Lyttelton, New Zealand on Monday, marking the second longshore fatality in the small island nation in the span of a week.

The casualty occurred aboard the bulker ETG Aquarius at Lyttelton's Cashin Quay. The worker was employed by the Lyttelton Port Company (LPC), which confirmed the accident in a brief statement. 

"Sadly an LPC staff member has passed away while the vessel was being loaded with coal for export," LPC CEO Kirstie Gardener said. "Our focus right now is on supporting our staff and the family of our LPC team member at this tragic time."

Just last Tuesday, another stevedore died in an accident at the Ports of Auckland on New Zealand's North Island. 26-year-old Atiroa Tuaiti, an employee of Wallace Investments, was killed aboard the boxship Capitaine Tasman when he sustained a fall on April 19. 

"We've got a terrible record in the industry in the last few years," Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison told Radio New Zealand. "It's not a big industry and if you compare us to the Australian steel and mining industries, which have far greater volumes and not anywhere the fatalities or harm we seem to be facing, we can't be doing this every week - we shouldn't be doing it at all."

New Zealand's Minister of Transport has directed the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) to look into the circumstances of the two accidents and provide an independent safety investigation, including an examination of any potential system-wide factors in the ports sector. 

A safety review at the Ports of Auckland in 2021 found "systemic" issues with safety management and safety culture, and the port's CEO stepped down after the results were published. Auckland has experienced four fatal port accidents since 2017, including a well-publicized incident in which a swimmer was struck by a speeding pilot boat.