Foreign charter vessels to be reflagged

  • Kate Wilkinson
  • David Carter
Labour Primary Industries

The Government today announced it is to require reflagging of foreign-owned fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters to address labour, safety and fisheries practice concerns.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson say foreign-flagged fishing vessels will no longer be able to legally operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period.

“The Government's decision sends a clear message that New Zealand is serious about the fair treatment of fishing crews, the safety of vessels and its international reputation for ethical and sustainable fishing practices,” say the Ministers.

Today’s announcement follows the Government’s decision in March to act on a number of recommendations of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs).

“Reflagging will further strengthen compliance with New Zealand laws and provide more transparency around the operation of foreign-owned vessels,” says Mr Carter.

“We are already moving to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FCVs, including placing an observer on all FCVs fishing in New Zealand waters.

“The Government continues to welcome foreign charter fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters, but they must meet our requirements and our standards,” he says.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says once vessels are flagged to New Zealand, the full range of New Zealand law, including employment relations and workplace health and safety law, will automatically apply and be enforceable.

“Reflagging will provide greater protection to the crew as they will be employed by a New Zealand-based party under a New Zealand employment agreement.

“If breaches of labour law occur – such as underpayment of wages or illegal deductions or breaches of the Code of Practice, the Department of Labour will be able to investigate them and take action. Maritime New Zealand is responsible for investigating any unsafe workplace practices.”

The Ministers say foreign crews will be protected during the four-year transition period with stronger monitoring and enforcement, including tougher independent audits of the New Zealand charter parties, safety monitoring on vessels and increased and enhanced on-board observer coverage.

“The transition period will also enable the fishing industry to adjust to the new regime. The Government will work closely with the industry to help facilitate this, particularly in regard to recognition of foreign crew qualifications,” the Ministers say.