New powers to combat drug smuggling at sea

Minister of Customs Hon Kris Faafoi has welcomed the passing of the Maritime Powers Extension Bill which will help Customs disrupt the supply of drugs to New Zealand and inhibit drug-smuggling in international waters.

At the passing of the third reading in Parliament this evening, Mr Faafoi said there is clear evidence that organised crime groups are attempting to smuggle drugs by sea.

“In recent years there has been an increase in illicit drug shipments detected off our shores so clearly we needed to broaden Customs’ abilities to take enforcement action against drug smuggling.

“The Maritime Powers Extension Bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to make drug smuggling in international waters an offence under New Zealand law. It also amends the Customs and Excise Act 2018 to allow Customs to board and search ships and take action against individuals suspected of committing these offences.

“This means Customs can enforce its powers into the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and the high seas beyond and disrupt drug smuggling networks early in the supply chain.“

Previously, Customs ability was limited to the 12 nautical mile limit and the contiguous zone a further 12 nautical miles beyond that.

“I am pleased to oversee introduction of these new measures which will contribute to the Coalition Government’s strong commitment to combat the flow of illicit drugs and stop the significant harm they cause. We know that these drugs command a high price in New Zealand which makes us an attractive market.

“As well, New Zealand has obligations under international conventions to suppress the smuggling of illicit drugs in international waters. This Bill goes a long way in helping us meet those obligations.”

Budget 2018 also invested $54.2 million of operating funding over four years to significantly enhance Customs’ capabilities across this area. This includes an additional 127 Customs staff, both here and overseas.