A joint operation by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) and the New Zealand Defence Force has seen 16 fishing vessels operating off the west coast of the South Island boarded and inspected to ensure they are meeting environmental and safety standards.
Two Korean-flagged foreign charter fishing vessels (FCFVs) – Gom 379 and Ser Este 700 – were sent back to port to rectify non-compliances related to marine protection rules.
In addition to environmental protection issues, inspection of the vessels covered certification and life-saving appliances, emergency preparedness and working practices.
Operation Moana involved assets provided by the NZ Defence Force – the HMNZS Wellington and the RNZAF Orion – enabling MNZ to target vessels while they were operating at sea.
During six days at sea, an MNZ Maritime Officer and Investigator boarded six FCFVs, four New Zealand-flagged factory trawlers, and six smaller inshore fishing vessels.
The inspection team focused on FCFVs and New Zealand-flagged fishing offshore vessels, but also took the opportunity to look at New Zealand inshore fishing vessels.
The two Korean-flagged vessels sent back to port were required to correct deficiencies in their oily water systems and have a full inspection before returning to sea. Gom 379 remains under investigation by MNZ.
Southern Regional Compliance Manager David Billington said the rationale for the operation was that being onboard a ship at sea was the best way to get a true picture of how it operates.
“It’s really good to see the vessel when it’s actually working – problems are a lot more visible than when it’s tied up. And when a vessel is on the water, you get to see the practices in action, which is when any issues will come to light.”
Mr Billington said the operation was a collaborative effort between MNZ and the NZ Defence Force.
Prior to the on-sea inspections, an MNZ team onboard an NZDF Orion flew over the area to identify where the vessels were, before passing this information on to the inspection team.
The Navy required the inspection team to undertake a two-day boarding training programme in Devonport on the HMNZS Wellington before they could go to sea.
During the operation, the inspection team boarded 16 vessels, and spoke to smaller operators about MNZ’s new Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS) to provide information and answer questions.
Mr Billington said the New Zealand vessels in particular were observed to have good oil pollution prevention and garbage management practices.
“Their practices were excellent. They were doing exactly what their plans said they would do – they had the right facilities and good practices. Our team observed that they often took the extra step to ensure they were not only meeting requirements but exceeding them.”
Sanford Deepwater Fleet Manager Darryn Shaw said the company welcomed the initiative.
“It is pleasing to see that MNZ is being proactive with its vessel inspections to ensure that everybody is operating to the rules. The rules are there to make it safe for fishermen to undertake their livelihood, along with protecting the environment.
“The inspections are very thorough and provide Sanford and its stakeholders with independent reassurance that our fishing vessels are operating to the level we require,” Darryn said.
Overall, Mr Billington said, the campaign had been a big success.
“We’re very grateful to the Defence Force, and really enjoyed the opportunity to work with them on something that is important to all of us – the environmental protection of New Zealand waters.
“This campaign was an excellent opportunity for MNZ to have a close look at how our fishing fleet is actually working out on the water, to engage with operators at the wheel if you like, as opposed to on the wharf, and to demonstrate that we are serious about enforcing these rules.
“From an industry point of view, I think most operators would be really glad to know that we are holding operators to account – as the vast majority of operators absolutely want to do the right thing.”
MNZ would look at conducting similar campaigns in the future.