Ships and Vessels


This standard has enabled the implementation of a new risk targeted approach to vessel inspection and clearance. Compliant vessels may in future be rated as low risk, resulting in reduced levels of inspection at both first and subsequent ports. For more information on the Vessel Standard, email:

Your vessel should be maintained in a pest-free state as far as possible. See the Fact Sheet for further information (offsite link to

All vessels travelling to New Zealand (including commercial shipping, pleasure craft and oil/mineral vessels and rigs) need to meet a number of requirements before and on arrival to ensure New Zealand’s environment, economy and people are protected from imported pests and diseases.

Following the arrival process outlined here will help ensure an efficient arrival into New Zealand. This information sets out the requirements for most commercial vessels. There are differing, or in some cases additional, requirements for other vessel types. See here:

  1. yachts
  2. cruise ships
  3. offshore oil exploration rig operators

Arrival location

All vessels MUST arrive at an approved Place of First Arrival unless there is an emergency or prior approval has been granted by MPI to enter at another specified location.

The Place of Place of First Arrival webpage gives a full list of approved ports and the contact details.

Before your arrival in New Zealand

All arriving vessels (masters or agents) must send biosecurity documentation to MPI 48 hours before the estimated time of arrival in port. This paperwork can be sent by email to: or faxed to 09 909 3729 OR it can be sent along with the New Zealand Customs Service forms to:

This documentation is processed at a centralised location for all New Zealand places of first arrival. Any questions about this process can be addressed to:

Port-specific questions can be directed to MPI

MPI inspectors at your intended arrival port. Phone and email contact details are at Place of First Arrival.

The completed documents required are:

Note: The Masters Declaration for Full Biosecurity Clearance is a different declaration for the masters of yachts or other vessels intending stay in New Zealand for a prolonged visit or permanently. This is generally completed on arrival.

The Masters Declaration asks you to list all meat and fresh produce on board, identify any animals carried by the vessel, and describe your refuse and pest management measures.

New Zealand has strict conditions regarding the discharge of ballast water. The Ballast Water Import Health Standard requires inbound vessels to formally submit their intentions around ballast water before arrival. Where MPI is satisfied that the declaration shows that ballast water tanks have been treated or exchanged with mid-ocean water, permission will be granted to release ballast water in New Zealand territorial waters from those tanks. Do not discharge ballast until you have received this permission. See Guide to New Zealand Ballast Water Controls to find out more.

Any animals on board must be secured for berthing of the vessel and must remain secured at least until inspected. Animals such as dogs or cats may be bonded while the vessel is in New Zealand waters. An amount of up to $NZ 10,000 can be charged to an animal owner who breaks a bond agreement.

Hitchhiker Pests

Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) Risk Vessels: A vessel that meets the criteria for high risk of Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) may be required to undergo a high level inspection for AGM egg masses and adults. This may be carried out before arrival 8 KM offshore at a location agreed with MPI, or can be carried out at certain ports. Such vessels cannot move into port or close to the coast unless there are 8 hours of daylight remaining for the inspection. Currently the criteria for high risk of AGM is that the vessel visited a Far East Russian port (south of 60° latitude and west of 147° longitude) between 18 July and 16 September during the previous 12 months.

A vessel that meets the criteria for medium risk may require intense inspection alongside. Currently the criteria for medium risk of AGM is that the vessel visited a Northern Japanese port between latitudes 38° N and 43° 30’N between 1 July and 1 October during the previous 12 months.

If a vessel has visited any part of Japan in the last 12 month period during the flight season for the particular area of Japan, to avoid undue delays in New Zealand it could obtain a certificate of freedom from an accredited agent in Japan shortly before leaving the port. A vessel that has a certificate from Japan can be declared on New Zealand’s Advance Notice of Arrival form, question 41.

No cargo is to be discharged until the inspection has been completed. If the vessel holds a current Certificate of Freedom from AGM the inspection may be downgraded.

When a master of a visiting vessel is replaced, the new master must countersign the Masters Declaration, the Ballast Water Declaration and any bond agreement and send to MPI at

On arrival

On arrival you will be asked to complete Passenger Arrival cards for all passengers and crew disembarking permanently in New Zealand.

Where a vessel does not berth immediately and goes to anchor, clearance may be delayed for 48 hours after the Master has been informed of any requirements for storage of refuse, and agrees in writing to comply with those conditions.

There are no charges for routine clearance of vessels at approved Places of First Arrival. There will be charges for vessels that need to be cleared at anchor.

When you have arrived at your first port, all people and goods must remain onboard until clearance has been completed, unless there is an emergency situation.

While in New Zealand territorial waters, refuse must be held in such a manner as to preclude access by animals, including vermin, birds and insects and must not be landed except at a port.

Refuse can be landed at a port only by the MPI approved disposal system. Inspectors will direct you to land any overflowing refuse to the system. Refuse disposal is at the vessel’s expense.

No stores can be landed in New Zealand except as directed by an inspector and disposal can only be through the approved port refuse collection.

Some meats or fresh produce in the store may be a risk to New Zealand and the inspector will request extra care is taken to ensure they are not landed or disposed of other than by the approved system. Some may be sealed by the inspector and these must not be opened while in New Zealand waters.

Direct outflow chutes are not approved for use in New Zealand territorial waters and galley waste disposal units that discharge ground up waste are not approved for use in ports or within three miles of the coast.

Wood packaging material (includes dunnage, pallets, fillets, spacers etc) for entry to New Zealand should meet New Zealand's requirements for treatment (ISPM 15) and certification.

Non-compliant dunnage will be inspected and any contaminated dunnage will be directed to be stored in a place where pests will be contained. If such dunnage is landed this must be as directed by an inspector and there will be a charge for its destruction by an approved process.

MPI Biosecurity Inspectors (along with New Zealand Customs Service officers) may board the vessel at the first or subsequent ports and meet with the Master or their representative to review and complete documentation. In some ports a vessel berthing after 1700 hours will have any inspection delayed until morning unless it is due to leave before 0800 hours the next day. Inspectors may:

  • Inspect the decks and holds and superstructure for pest organisms
  • Discuss appropriate pest management programmes where needed
  • Inspect galleys, and provision areas
  • Inspect what animals are present and ensure that they are secured on board
  • Assess and inspect vessel refuse system
  • Inspect any ship's dunnage, wood packaging, pallets and other timber
  • Inspect bicycles and sports gear for landing or use in New Zealand
  • Inspect any baggage or belongings of disembarking passengers and crew
  • Inspect ship's logs relating to ballast water and possibly take samples.

Passengers and crew intending to permanently disembark will be asked to complete their arrival cards and present them to a MPI Biosecurity Inspector. For cruise passengers and crew see

You will not be allowed to take any stores (including food) or plants from the vessel without written approval by the MPI Inspector.

Arrival at subsequent New Zealand port

Vessels that are not fully cleared (such as most commercial trading vessels and passenger vessels) remain under biosecurity surveillance and will be permitted to only visit other approved Place of First Arrival. These vessels may also be inspected by MPI at any of these ports.

Standards applying to vessel biosecurity clearance

For further information:

Qualified MPI Biosecurity Inspectors are available to respond to your enquiries by email: or by phoning 09 909 4862. Enquiries can also be made in person at MPI port offices during normal work hours. Contact details, email addresses and phone numbers are listed under the Place of First Arrival.

Latest news

Update on pending Biofouling Requirements

MPI is scheduled to introduce a new border requirement that all vessels arrive in New Zealand with minimal hull biofouling. The new standard, the 'Import Health Standard for Vessel Biofouling', is now due to be released in mid to late 2013 and will include an implementation period of 4 years to allow vessel operators time to prepare before any enforcement commences. During this time vessel operators are encouraged to move to voluntary compliance as soon as feasible.

The biofouling standard was consulted with marine industries including international shipping in 2010. That consultation backed up MPI's view that the risk to New Zealand's marine environment and marine-based industries posed by introduced marine pest species demanded some action. It also prompted better clarification of the requirements and the need to include some flexibility around meeting them.

During the implementation period MPI will work with vessel operators and the industry in general to identify feasible options to meet the standard including where necessary entering into agreements and will work with some sectors on industry guidelines that could be approved by MPI as containing acceptable approaches to compliance.

A discussion paper has been prepared on the costs and benefits of enforcing biofouling requirements and the advantages of the long implementation option and will be released with the standard's release in April or possibly earlier.

In brief, the standard will include:

  • Requirement for all vessels to arrive with a 'clean' hull or demonstrate a similar reduction of risk through their biofouling management regime.
  • Thresholds have been set for the meaning of 'clean'.
  • Short stay ships will have a slightly higher allowance including a scattering of barnacles or tubeworms. These vessels will be able to meet the standard by demonstrating the ship employs a good biofouling maintenance regime in line with the IMO Biofouling Guidelines.
  • Recreational vessels will be inspected with an underwater camera if they are suspected of being fouled.
  • Non-compliant recreational vessels will be directed to a MPI-approved haul out facility to be hauled out and cleaned at the vessel owner/operator's expense.
  • Other long-stay vessels will need to show they have been cleaned shortly before coming to New Zealand.
  • Alternative methods of meeting the requirements or achieving an equivalent risk reduction can be used but will require prior approval from MPI.
  • Ability for agreements on acceptable compliance method to be made with MPI for specified regularly visiting vessels or for project vessel deployments.

MPI does not intend imposing any requirements that exceed current international thinking on appropriate hull maintenance. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted new voluntary guidelines for shipping (offsite link to in July 2011 and compliance with these guidelines will be considered as one way of complying with New Zealand's new biofouling requirements.

Centralised processing for pre-arrival vessel documents

From December 2010, MPI moved to a new automated information system, aligned with the New Zealand Customs Service system, to manage the clearance of overseas vessels. It slightly changes the way arriving ships interact with MPI. Now all MPI documentation for arriving commercial vessels (Advanced Notice of Arrival (Form NZCS 344), Ballast Water Declaration, Masters Declaration) may now be sent to the New Zealand Customs Service email address: along with the required Customs forms. All documents are now processed at the one centre.

Page last updated: 21 August 2013