New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has announced that a trial accreditation program boosting biosecurity for international cruise ships will be expanded next season.
The scheme involves collecting background information about vessel stores and pest management practices to determine biosecurity risk. Vessels were also expected to provide additional biosecurity education to passengers before landing in New Zealand. As part of the arrangement, accredited vessels received less biosecurity scrutiny on the gangway by MPI biosecurity officers when they arrived in New Zealand.
Steve Gilbert, MPI Border Clearance Services Director, said the extra biosecurity education proved its worth with MPI finding fewer risk goods on passengers leaving accredited vessels than ships that weren't part of trial which involved two cruise lines. Accredited vessels made 401 port visits to New Zealand during the summer season. The seizure rate (seizures of biosecurity risk goods per 1,000 passengers) was 0.9 for accredited vessels compared with 1.5 for uncredited vessels.
The scheme improves the travel experience for disembarking passengers, as it means less holdups due to biosecurity checks, says Gilbert. "I really want to give credit to the cruise industry, who have made a real effort to improve biosecurity compliance. By reducing gangway inspections, the scheme has also allowed us to free up officers to focus on higher risk work, including inspecting cargo for brown marmorated stink bug.”
Stink bugs don't chew but pierce plants with a sucking beak, so they bypass surface pesticide. New Zealand's export trade depends on crops such as asparagus, kiwifruit and apples.
Items that cannot be taken off vessels in New Zealand include:
fresh fruit and vegetables
meat of any kind
prepared meals (including sandwiches)
any other food items
flowers, seeds, or plants.
Only commercially-bottled drinking water is permitted to leave the vessel without permission of the MPI quarantine inspector.
The scheme will now be expanded to cover more cruise vessels coming to New Zealand.
New Zealand's popularity as a cruise destination has skyrocketed in the last few years, with the sector growing five-fold in the last 10 years. In 2015-2016 Australians (51 percent) made up the majority of international cruise arrivals, followed by Americans (17 percent) and British (seven percent). In the 2017-18 season, New Zealand is expected to welcome upwards of 280,000 cruise ship passengers.
The most common cruise itinerary for New Zealand is trans-Tasman, which typically starts in Sydney, taking two nights to cross the Tasman Sea and then visits Fiordland, Port Chalmers, Akaroa, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland and the Bay of Islands before returning to Australia.
Tourism New Zealand says continued growth of the cruise market will rely on a cohesive approach from the New Zealand tourism industry. Some of the challenges the sector currently faces include ensuring adequate infrastructure is available for visitors, the streamlining of port of entry customs procedures, the quality of onshore excursions and passenger transportation into city centers.