Solo Navigation Requirements, NZ

Friday, August 28, 2009

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says it would need to be satisfied that a proposed solo round the world voyage by a teenage girl would not put hers or others’ lives at risk, before deciding whether to allow the voyage to go ahead.

Thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker, who has a New Zealand and German passport, recently announced plans to sail solo around the world in an 26.2 ft yacht. It is understood Dekker is intending to leave from New Zealand, if Dutch authorities prevent her from leaving from Hollad.

Maritime New Zealand Recreational Boating Manager, Jim Lott, said MNZ had powers under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, to detain any vessel from leaving New Zealand waters if the Director believed, on clear grounds, that the vessel was likely to endanger any person or property, or was hazardous to the health or safety of any person.

"While every expedition is different and is judged on its merits, anyone intending to undertake an ‘extreme’ voyage of this magnitude from New Zealand must satisfy strict standards to ensure safety before receiving clearance to depart."

"While other young people have successfully carried out voyages of this type, there is no question that being alone in a small boat on a large ocean is extremely tough – mentally, physically and emotionally – even for an experienced adult sailor," said Lott, himself an experienced yachtsman who has sailed internationally.

While there was no age limit under New Zealand maritime law regarding who could carry out a solo voyage, Mr Lott said that the age, skill and experience of the person attempting the voyage would have to be considered by MNZ, along with the seaworthiness of their vessel and other safety factors.

MNZ was aware of concerns raised by the Dutch authorities and would take these into consideration, along with any concerns raised by other New Zealand agencies, he said.

"While we applaud the spirit of anyone attempting a voyage of this type, given the obvious safety issues that this raises, the Director of Maritime New Zealand has a duty to consider the impact of the proposal on the person’s safety – and on the safety of anyone who may be called on to rescue them should something go wrong."

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