Our compliance operating model

Maritime New Zealand’s (MNZ) Compliance Operating Model describes how we manage compliance to achieve the best outcomes in our role as guardian of the maritime environment.

Overview of our compliance operating model

As a regulator, our role is to maximise compliance with regulatory framework that applies in the maritime environment. Achieving maximum compliance is a major factor in achieving the MNZ aim of a maritime environment that is “safe, secure, clean”.

The key documents making up the MNZ Compliance Operating Model are:

  • Compliance Strategy – sets out the rationale for MNZ’s approach to compliance
  • Compliance Intervention Guidelines – explains how to use the Model in practice
  • Compliance Intervention Panel Standard Operating Procedures. The Compliance Intervention Panel is a made up of staff from across MNZ functions and aims to ensure consistent decision-making on compliance issues.
  • Prosecution Policy - guidelines and standards to be followed by MNZ staff in deciding whether to prosecute and in conducting prosecutions
Compliance strategy [PDF: 127kB, 13 pages] Compliance Intervention Guidelines [PDF: 320kB, 27 pages] Compliance Intervention Panel Standard Operating Procedures [PDF: 164kB, 6 pages]

Read the MNZ prosecution policy


Focus on risk

While it is important that everyone operates safely, securely, and protects the environment, at all times, MNZ believes we need to put the greatest focus on the biggest risks.

By risk we mean:

  • the amount or level of harm that would result if an event occurred
  • the likelihood of that event occurring.  

We will continue to respond to accidents and incidents, but we consider a focus on preventing accidents and incidents is a better approach.

We will concentrate our activities in areas where we see a pattern of problems or issues. These patterns might occur in particular parts of the maritime sector, with types of vessels, types of equipment, or practices, or in particular geographical areas. They might also occur with particular operators.



To identify these patterns, we will draw together and use all of the information sources available to us, including:

  • our audits
  • our inspections
  • our investigations
  • our knowledge of oil spills and security issues
  • our research.

We will combine this with information we access from other compliance agencies, maritime sector participants, members of the public and others. All of these information sources will help build a picture – showing patterns of attitude, capability, behaviour and risk.

This is known as an intelligence-led process.


Risk, attitude, behaviour and capability

We expect vessel operators, commercial and recreational, to operate safely, securely, and to protect the environment. Research across a variety of compliance areas suggests that most individuals and organisations want to do so.

But we also know that:

  • barriers such as a lack of awareness, or understanding, or capability may prevent some people from operating in a safe, secure or environmentally responsible manner 
  • some will make efforts in these areas only because they see that not making an effort will result in attention from MNZ or other agencies 
  • some people will not comply at all.

Our approach will depend on the attitude of those we are working with.  We aim to:

  • make compliance as easy as possible for those that are capable and want to comply
  • assist those who are trying to comply but not succeeding  
  • deter, through surveillance and detection, those who are reluctant to comply
  • use the full force of the law for those who do not want to comply or are wilfully negligent.


How we respond to non-compliance

MNZ has a range of tools, or interventions, available when non-compliance with rules is identified. Some tools are designed to assist maritime sector participants to get things right, and others are about using enforcement where necessary.

Our approach will be tailored to the circumstances. We will select the tool that we think will have the most impact on achieving our outcomes, taking into account risk, attitude and capability, plus the likely consequences of an incident or harm occurring.

The range of interventions available enables us to:

  • provide information and educational materials to operators
  • give advice and suggest improvements in safety and marine environment protection
  • issue safety updates and advisory circulars
  • issue notices requiring corrective action on deficiencies or improvements to be made
  • impose conditions
  • investigate, and issue warnings
  • detain vessels
  • prohibit operations
  • suspend and revoke a seafarer’s licence
  • prosecute.

We will also publicise intervention action through our website and the media if we believe there is public interest in the outcome.


Our Intervention Decision Guide – how we decide what action to take

The diagram below shows what factors we consider when deciding how to respond to compliance issues or incidents.

We will consider:

  • the extent of harm or risk of harm
  • the conduct of individuals or groups being looked at (whether it is a one-off event or ongoing behaviour)
  • the public interest (or the importance to the wider public)
  • the attitude of those involved towards compliance.

After these factors have been weighed up, consideration will be given to what is the most appropriate intervention action to take to remedy the compliance issue.

The intervention actions at the base of the triangle will generally be used to support those who are willing to comply, while interventions at the top of the triangle will generally be used:

  • in cases of active or intentional non-compliance
  • where serious harm has occurred (or could have occurred)
  • where action is necessary to deter others from similar non-compliance.

We will choose the most appropriate intervention for the issue involved – the right tool at the right time. This means significant action may be taken when attitude is good, for other reasons.

Intervention action will not be used progressively (from the base up, one action leading to another on a higher level). Action will be taken at the appropriate level as determined by consideration harm, conduct, public interest, and attitude to compliance.

picture of a compliance model diagram

Our areas of focus


  • All commercial operators must have a safety system in place before commencing operations.  MNZ will audit and monitor safety systems to ensure that they are effective.
  • Masters and crew must hold certificates of competency appropriate to their operation, and be considered fit and proper persons.
  • Vessels over 24 metres must be registered. Commercial vessels are subject to regular surveys and MNZ monitoring and checks.
  • MNZ will monitor accidents, incidents, near misses, and breaches of the law, and take action as appropriate.
  • MNZ will respond, through the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), when lives or vessels are at risk.

Marine environment protection:

  • MNZ oversees commercial and large recreational ships’ compliance with required:
    • construction features
    • shipboard equipment for prevention of pollution
    • garbage management plans
    • oil spill emergency plans
    • recording of operations involving oil and garbage
    • pollution prevention certification.
  • MNZ coordinates the training and preparedness of regional councils and other agencies for responding to oil spills. It maintains equipment and resources at various locations to deal with oil spills.
  • MNZ coordinates the response to significant oil spills (Tier 3 level), with regional councils handling lesser impact oil spills (Tier 1 and Tier 2 level oil spills).
  • MNZ will monitor accidents, incidents, near misses, and breaches of the law and take action as appropriate, regarding oil, other harmful substances, and other activities harmful to the environment.


  • MNZ assists and advises ports to develop security plans and approves those plans.
  • MNZ monitors ports’ annual security exercises and performs random inspections to check how security plans are working in practice.
  • MNZ works with other agencies to protect New Zealand from dangerous and illegal goods entering the country, as well as providing the government with intelligence regarding security.

Related information:

Compliance guidelines

Download Compliance Intervention Guidelines

[PDF 467kB, 27 pages]