A marine safety plan for White Island Tours did not mention volcanic eruptions, documents obtained by Thing under the Official Information Act show.
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The revelation comes as another victim succumbed to his injuries in hospital following the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption in December.
A spokeswoman for White Island Tours said eruption contingency plans were covered in a separate document and all staff had been made aware of the plans.
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But one maritime law expert retrospectively suggested that the shipping operators’ plan should have discussed eruptions, given that the ash plume was rising some distance from shore.
Forty-seven tourists and guides were on the island at the time of the eruption.
Eighteen are now officially confirmed dead while two remain missing, including experienced White Island Tours guide Hayden Marshall-Inman.
Thing obtained the Whakatāne Company Shipping Operator Plan from Maritime NZ.
An occupational health and safety investigation into the Whakaari/White Island eruption could take a year. (Video first published on December 16, 2019)
Maritime NZ is the health and safety regulator for work on board ships, as Worksafe is ashore.
The document includes details on crew training, daily operating procedures, maintenance, and health and safety.
These health and safety plans include full pages on waste management and sewage disposal at sea, as well as an extensive drug and alcohol policy.
But they make no mention of an eruption.
Peter Dawson, Principal of Dawson & Associates, has been a maritime lawyer for over 25 years.
He was not surprised the document did not address blowouts and said the threat would have been covered by risk management plans overseen by Worksafe.
A Marine Transportation Operator Plan (MTOP) was usually an internal plan rather than looking at external threats, meaning it was more likely to talk about how the ship should be manned and ship emergencies. crew, he said.
The eruption blew up an ash cloud some distance offshore in the Crater Bay area, according to Geonet volcanologist Brad Scott, meaning ships at sea could be affected.
Dawson said that suggested maritime safety plans should have discussed blowouts.
“If the effects of the blowout were felt at sea, there should have been a protocol in the MTOP that would have addressed the identification of the hazard and the actions that would have been taken to mitigate it.
“I guess in hindsight, that’s something that should have come up in there.”
Maritime NZ’s Deputy Director of Executive Compliance Systems Delivery, Pelin Fantham, said in a statement that the MTOP covered the safety of persons on board vessels at sea and did not apply to passengers ashore.
Police divers expressed frustration at being within yards of the allegedly missing body of White Island tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman before dangerous swells thwarted their attempts to recover him.
His statement said a section of the plan included responsibility for checking landing conditions and seismic monitors on the island, although it did not explicitly mention the risk of an eruption.
“WorkSafe is the appropriate agency to discuss safe operations and operating procedures on the island,” she said.
A Worksafe spokeswoman did not provide any information, citing the ongoing investigation.