Rena disaster - who's really to blame | The Jackal

26 May 2012

Rena disaster - who's really to blame

Today, TV3 reported:

The owners of the Rena should share the blame for the disaster that led to two Filipino seamen being jailed, says a Philippines-based seafarers group.

Captain Mauro Balomaga, 44, and navigation officer Leonil Relon, 37, were jailed for seven months each yesterday on a raft of charges laid after the 37,000-tonne Liberian-flagged cargo ship struck Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga in October last year.

In what became New Zealand's worst environmental disaster, the Rena spilled about 360 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea, which washed up on local beaches and killed wildlife.
Containers were washed overboard and clean-up crews are still picking up debris from the wreck, which broke apart in January after being pounded by heavy seas.

Investigators should look into the possibility the ship owners had ordered Balomaga to alter course to save fuel, Edwin de la Cruz, president of the Manila advocacy group International Seafarers' Action Centre, told AFP.

"The captain should not be made a scapegoat... the act of the captain is the act of shipowners."


Maritime Union general secretary Joe Fleetwood agreed with the suggestion the disaster was not purely the fault of the two men.

New Zealand had deregulated its shipping industry and now relied on international lines - many using flags of convenience - for its coastal cargo system, he said.

He did not think New Zealand would return to the days of having its own ships serving its ports, and predicted there would only be a "band-aid" response to prevent a disaster like the Rena happening again.

When National deregulated the shipping industry in the 1990's with their so-called “open coast” policy changes, they effectively set New Zealand on a course of increased accidents, reduced port security and the exploitation of crews on flag of convenience ships.

It's exactly the same thing that happened with the mining industry, where greedy corporates and National's deregulation have reduced safety and oversight that's led to disasters like Pike River.

The failed free-market ideology that National blindly follows and greedy multinational's are just as much to blame as those idiots Captain Mauro Balomaga and navigational officer Leonil Relon who piloted the MV Rena into the Astrolabe reef.

While the local communities along the East coast have bore the brunt of the disaster, officials continue to blunder and the recovery mission slows as public scrutiny diminishes, leaving a poisonous shipwreck as a lasting monument to National's incompetence.