Ship routeing

Read about the routeing of ships operating in and around the coast of New Zealand to prevent or reduce the risk of pollution or other damage to the marine environment.

New Zealand’s voluntary ship routeing code

Due to the relatively low volume of traffic operating in and around the coast, New Zealand does not have a formal mandatory system of ships’ routeing. Instead, New Zealand operates a Voluntary Code for Ships Carrying Oil or other Harmful Liquid Substances in Bulk (the Voluntary Code).

This Voluntary Code was introduced to prevent or reduce the risk of pollution or other damage to the marine environment caused by ships carrying oil or other harmful liquid substances in bulk around New Zealand’s coastline.The voluntary routes apply to all oil and chemical tankers undertaking passages through New Zealand’s coastal waters.

The Voluntary Code was first introduced in 1993, and subsequently revised in 1996 and 2001. As well as reducing the potential for pollution of the marine environment, the Voluntary Code provides a greater lead-time for response in the event of an accident occurring.

The Voluntary Code for ship owners and masters recommends measures to reduce the likelihood of stranding of tankers, thereby minimising the threat of pollution. It recommends that tankers should keep at least five nautical miles from the land, any charted danger, or any outlying islands, until reaching the position where alteration is required to make port or depart the coast of New Zealand. More specific routeing instructions are provided for the approaches to each of the 14 main commercial ports.

The Voluntary Code is generally in accordance with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines, with specific mandatory measures also adopted by the IMO for New Zealand waters.

See the New Zealand Nautical Almanac for more information. It is available online and from chart retailers.

New Zealand Nautical Almanac [Land Information New Zealand]


Precautionary areas and areas to avoid

There is one precautionary area established in New Zealand - the extended Taranaki offshore, situated off the south west coast of the North Island There are two areas to be avoided:

  • the Three Kings Islands, situated off the northern tip of the North Island
  • the extended area around the Poor Knights Islands, situated off the north-east coast of the North Island
Precautionary areas and areas to avoid [PDF: 120kB, 2 pages]

These two areas to be avoided are also outlined in Marine Protection Rule Part 190 - Mandatory Ships’ Routeing.

Go to the rule