Safety zones and precautionary areas

To protect offshore installations and reduce the risk of an accident and resulting marine pollution, some exclusion zones and a precautionary area have been established around New Zealand.

The right of coastal states to establish exclusion zones within the exclusive economic zone is recognised under International Law by Article 60 of the United Nations Law Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Article 60 provides for coastal states to establish exclusion zones around offshore installations, extending to a distance not exceeding 500 metres from each point of the outer edge of the installation.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) resolution A.671(16) (Safety Zones and Safety of Navigation around Offshore Installations and Structures) recommends that Governments consider, amongst other things:

  • the establishment of safety zones around offshore installations or structures
  • the establishment and charting of fairways or routeing systems through exploration areas.

Safety zone regulations

Two statutes provide for the establishment of safety zones around offshore installations:

  • the Continental Shelf Act 1964 - covering the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone
  • the Maritime Transport Act 1994 – covering the territorial sea only.

Safety zones, made under the Continental Shelf Act, are specified in the following regulations:

  • Continental Shelf (Maui A Safety Zone) Regulations 1975
  • Continental Shelf (Maui B Safety Zone) Regulations 1991
  • Continental Shelf (Pohokura B Safety Zone) Regulations 2006
  • Continental Shelf (Kupe Safety Zone) Regulations 2006
  • Continental Shelf (Umuroa Installation Safety Zone) Regulations 2008
  • Continental Shelf (Maari Development Safety Zones) Regulations 2008

Entry into these safety zones is prohibited to all except authorised vessels. A fine of up to $1,000 may be imposed for navigating within the safety zones.

The Umuroa installation and Maari development safety zones have been created around installations in the Maari and Tui oil fields. The installations comprise of floating production storage and offtake facilities (FPSO), and; in the case of the Maui field, a separate wellhead platform. For FPSOs, the baseline for the 500m safety zone is a circle described by the outer extent of movement around the mooring system (not including offtake tankers).

Applying to establish a safety zone

If a safety zone is required, an application should be made in writing to the Secretary for Transport. The application should include an overview of the proposed operation, including development dates and full details of the location of the proposed offshore installation. The application process takes six months, allowing sufficient time for the new safety zone regulation to be created.

For further details about establishing safety zones under the Continental Shelf Act please contact the Ministry of Transport.

Ministry of Transport

Precautionary areas

A precautionary area is an area within defined limits where ships must navigate with particular caution in order to reduce the risk of a maritime casualty and resulting marine pollution.

It is also an area within which a particular direction of traffic flow may be recommended.

This is one of a number of ships’ routeing measures for international vessels which can be established through the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

How routeing measures are established

Contracting governments (including New Zealand) initiate action by referring proposals to the IMO’s Safety of Navigation (NAV) sub-committee.

Proposals must fit within the specific guidelines and criteria developed by the IMO. The IMO then circulates the newly adopted routeing measures to all other contracting governments.

The shipping sector is informed of adopted vessel routeing measures through nautical publications such as the IMO Ships’ Routeing guide and updates to internationally recognised charts.

Three Kings Islands area to be avoided

The Three Kings Islands, situated off the northern tip of the North Island, were identified in 1995 as an area to avoid.

This area, declared a wildlife sanctuary, is protected from ships of 500 gross tonnes or more, in order to avoid the risk of pollution and damage to the environment.

Poor Knights Islands area to be avoided

The extended area around the Poor Knights Islands, situated off the north-east coast of the North Island, was identified as an area to be avoided in 2003.

Declared a marine reserve, the islands are protected from ships of 45m overall length or more, in order to avoid the risk of pollution and damage to the environment.

Taranaki offshore precautionary area

The extended Taranaki offshore area, situated off the south west coast of the North Island, was identified as a precautionary area with effect from mid-2007. All ships should navigate with particular caution in order to reduce the risk of a maritime casualty and resulting marine pollution in consequence of the high level of offshore petroleum activity.

This precautionary area is defined by a line connecting the following geographical positions, the landward extent of which is determined by Mean High Water Springs (MHWS):

  1. The charted line of MHWS at approximately 38° 31′.00 S 174° 37′.80 E
  2. 39° 18’.50 S 173° 05’.00 E
  3. 39° 26’.00 S 173° 01’.00 E
  4. 40° 03’.00 S 173° 04’.00 E
  5. 40° 10’.00 S 173° 16’.00 E
  6. The charted line of MHWS at approximately 39° 53’.50 S 174° 54′.50 E.

Reference Charts:

  • New Zealand North Island NZ23. April 2005 Edition. (WGS-84 Datum).
  • Western Approaches to Cook Strait NZ48. April 2000 Edition. (WGS 84 Datum).

Marine Protection Rule Part 190 – Mandatory Ships’ Routeing