Law change could have saved missing Nina
Saturday 13 Jul 2013 5:27 p.m.
It's a week since the search for the missing American schooner, Nina, was officially called off.
Critics are concerned the boat wasn't seaworthy, but it wasn't subjected to a maritime safety inspection because New Zealand can't apply its laws to foreign-flagged pleasurecraft.
A maritime law expert says it's time the law was changed.
When the Nina left Northland for Australia in late May it did so without a category-one safety inspection by Maritime New Zealand.
"In 1998 the Court of Appeal said that New Zealand lacked the jurisdiction to apply its laws to foreign-flagged pleasurecraft in the absence of an international treaty," says maritime law expert Bevan Marten.
One expert says there were concerns about the Nina's warped hull and safety equipment while it was moored in Whangarei.
"Concerns about the life raft and have they got a satellite phone, have they got a current life raft, have they got a parachute anchor, have they got an EPIRB that just transmits straight to the aircraft?" says Blue Water Sailor Russ Rimmington.
Members of the seven crew onboard last contacted family during a storm on June 4. There were winds up to 60 knots and 8-metre seas.
"A bit like the front of a shoe, water just pours in," says Mr Rimmington. "Frightening to think how it comes in with the weight of the keel dragging it down as well, and often it's just 10 minutes to abandon ship."
No emergency beacon was activated.
Cell phone co-ordinates gave searchers a starting point, but after weeks of searching no sign has been found of the boat or its experienced crew.
Mr Marten says the law should allow inspection of foreign-flagged vessels, and he'd like it to be part of the Marine Legislation Bill, currently before Parliament.
"Safety of life at sea, if we make sure these vessels are safe and they have the right safety equipment, we'll prevent tragedies from occurring," says Mr Marten.
It would also prevent expensive, large search and rescue operations.
But he was told by the select committee it was outside the scope of the bill or, as he says, it was put in the "too hard" basket.