Oil Pollution Levy (OPL)

Oil Pollution Levies (OPL) are collected from industry to run New Zealand’s maritime oil pollution preparedness and response system.

OPL overview

The OPL applies to all commercial vessels over 100 gross tons and more than 24 metres in length (except those operating in fresh water), offshore oil installations, exploration wells and oil pipelines.

An Oil Pollution Levies Order 2019 came into force on 1 July 2019 setting the levies (see Enabling regulation section below).

We consulted on the OPL allocation method and rates over July - August 2023, and Cabinet approved changes in April 2024.

The new methodology considers how much of the total levies required each vessel should be liable for, and is based on specific criteria to determine the “value of what is placed at risk in the maritime system”. The principle is the ‘risk value’. The ships criteria will use Gross Tonnage as a proxy for bunker fuel capacity, and actual quantity of oil carried as cargo.

Funding review consultation information 2023


Preparedness and response services in New Zealand

New Zealand has implemented a three-tiered approach to marine oil spill preparedness and response. A Tier 1 oil spill response is managed and funded by individual operators (the spiller). Tier 2 is managed by the regional councils and unitary authorities. Each council maintains trained oil spill response teams, equipment and a regional response plan.

If the spill is beyond the local response team’s ability to manage, or regional resources are insufficient, or where the costs are likely to be significant, a Tier 3 - or national level - response may be called. A Tier 3 spill is controlled by a National On-Scene Commander who has extensive statutory powers. New Zealand can also call on international resources if needed.

Responding to spills and pollution

The Oil Pollution Advisory Committee (OPAC) is a statutory committee appointed by the Minister of Transport under Section 282 of the Maritime Transport Act (1994). The key functions of this committee are to advise the Maritime New Zealand Authority on:

  • the New Zealand Oil Spill Response Strategy;
  • the fixing and levying of oil pollution levies;
  • the use of the Oil Pollution Fund; and
  • any other matters as set out in the Maritime Transport Act.

Funding of preparedness and response services

The Maritime Transport Act requires Maritime New Zealand to establish and administer an Oil Pollution Fund (OPF). The fund is required to cover:

  • the costs of the Oil Pollution Advisory Committee
  • the purchase of equipment or anything else required to implement or assist in implementing a response to marine oil spills
  • the reasonable costs Maritime New Zealand or a regional council incurs in investigating a suspected marine oil spill and in controlling, dispersing and cleaning up any marine oil spill
  • the costs of services associated with planning and responding to marine oil spills that are services provided for under a contract
  • the costs to Maritime New Zealand or a regional council of taking measures to avoid marine oil spills.

The basic premise of oil pollution preparedness and response is that the potential polluter pays. In circumstances when the polluter is not identified, the OPF is used to pay expenses from reserves set aside for that purpose.


Current OPL rates

View the current OPL rates that apply to New Zealand and Foreign vessels.

View OPL rates

Enabling regulation

Maritime Transport (Oil Pollution Levies) Amendment Order 2019 [New Zealand Legislation] Maritime Transport (Oil Pollution Levies) Order 2016 [New Zealand Legislation]