Maritime incident response

We make life safer for all recreational and commercial activities on the water. Coordinating major maritime and aviation search and rescue responses, leading New Zealand’s response to large oil spills, and working to instil a ‘safety culture’ within the maritime community are just some of the ways we achieve this.

Search and rescue

We operate a search and rescue response service in one of the largest search and rescue areas in the world. It is 30 million square kilometres.

Our organisation, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), coordinates:

  • major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions in New Zealand’s search and rescue region
  • land-based search and rescue missions arising from someone activating an emergency locator beacon.

The Police coordinate all other New Zealand search and rescue missions.

Learn more about RCCNZ

Oil spill response

As the lead oil spill response agency for New Zealand, our Marine Pollution Response Service (MPRS) is responsible for maintaining and developing the country’s readiness to respond to marine oil spills.

We manage responses to large oil spill incidents and provide support to regional councils and oil industry representatives, who deal with smaller incidents.

We also manage the national response plan, maintain and supply response equipment, train response staff and run practice exercises.

Oil spill response aims to:

  • reduce the impact of oil pollution on New Zealand’s marine environment as much as possible
  • reduce the recovery time for the oiled environment, by removing as much oil as possible, without causing further environmental damage.

Learn more about MPRS

Training our capability to respond to a maritime incident

Exercise Ironsands II

In December 2020, Maritime New Zealand held Exercise Ironsands II, one of a series of exercises building our capability to respond to a range of maritime incidents. Exercising is a fundamental part of training and maintaining our readiness to react effectively and appropriately to events.

In this half-day exercise, nearly 70 Maritime NZ staff were activated using our incident management system and text alerts, along with several responders from other agencies. Working from Maritime NZ’s office in Wellington, they confirmed the current state of affairs with the stricken ship and the potential risks across a range of contingencies.

Participating as the Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT), they grappled with the early stages of a potentially severe maritime incident involving the loss of a ship’s engine power under worsening conditions and in a sensitive natural area. Using the all-of-government Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS), functional teams completed priority response activities to mitigate the risks unfolding during the simulated incident and to achieve the Incident Controller’s objectives.

Maritime New Zealand ©2021
See Exercise Ironsands II in action.

Preparing for a major maritime incident

Exercise Whakautu II

In May 2016, Maritime New Zealand successfully led Exercise Whakautu II, which tested New Zealand’s preparedness for a major maritime emergency.

The three-day, national exercise was the culmination of 15 months’ work involving more than one-third of Maritime NZ’s staff, and 278 participants from 57 agencies. It brought together central, regional and local government, along with Iwi, community organisations and businesses, all under Maritime NZ’s leadership.

Working first from Maritime NZ’s office in Wellington, then from the National Crisis Management Centre at the Beehive and a quickly set up Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in New Plymouth, the exercise played out the response to a collision between a tanker and a cargo ship off the Taranaki coast.

Maritime New Zealand ©2021
See Exercise Whakautu II in action.
Exercise Whakautu II - Post exercise report [PDF: 746kB, 29 pages]
Related information:
Distress beacons can save lives.

Types of beacons

Different beacons are designed for use in different environments.
Learn more
Teach students about the marine environment in New Zealand.

School resource

An outline of the causes, consequences and prevention of marine and waterway litter.

[PDF: 438KB, 2 pages]