Biofoul issue sees cruise ships turned away from NZ

THE New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA) and Biosecurity New Zealand have been in talks over cruise ship biofoul issues, which has affected at least four cruise lines over the last month.

Several ships were recently prevented from docking in New Zealand after inspections discovered the presence of “biofoul”, which is made up of marine microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals, in accordance with guidance from the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries.

Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess missed her scheduled visits in December to Fiordland and Dunedin in New Zealand in order to undergo additional hull clearing.

Viking was also affected last week, when Viking Orion was denied entry into ports in Australia and New Zealand due to a “marine growth” on her hull, with the ship denied permission to dock in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Hobart, as well as South Australia.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ (RSSC) Seven Seas Explorer was the third ship turned away from New Zealand due to a “dirty hull”, followed most recently by Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which has cancelled a port call to Dunedin and a scenic sailing in Fiordland to allow for underwater hull cleaning to be performed.

A joint meeting was held between NZCA and Biosecurity New Zealand yesterday, with NZCA Chief Executive Kevin O’Sullivan saying an increase in biosecurity inspections may be contributing to the issue.

He said cruise lines should be encouraged to begin inspections before the start of the season in order to prevent itinerary disruptions due to last-minute cleaning.

“Nothing in particular has changed, with the exception that there was probably more inspections being carried out this season because of the gap since ships were here last,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the cruise lines are losing revenue, they’re incurring the wrath of unhappy passengers…it’s certainly a far from ideal situation.”

Biosecurity NZ said it remained “fully committed to balancing the need for cruise visitors to be in New Zealand, with protecting our special marine environment and economy”.

“To this end, Biosecurity New Zealand will continue to work very closely and actively with vessel operators,” it concluded.

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