Commercial fishing vessel registration

Vessels need to be registered to fish commercially in New Zealand waters. Find out about the requirements, how to apply to register, and what to do for foreign-owned vessels.

How to apply to register your fishing vessel

There are 3 steps to registering your vessel as a commercial fishing vessel.

  1. Register your vessel as a New Zealand ship
  2. Get a FishServe client number (or update your details)
  3. Register your vessel on the Fishing Vessel Register

The steps are the same for:

  • New Zealand-owned vessels
  • foreign-owned vessels (FOVs).

However, FOVs have different registration requirements to New Zealand-owned vessels.

Find requirements for FOVs

1. Register as a New Zealand ship

Visit the Maritime New Zealand website to register.

Ship registration – Maritime New Zealand

2. Get a FishServe client number

If you don't already have a client number, you'll need to register with FishServe and complete an application form.

Becoming a client – FishServe

To find the right application form that you need, check the "Clients" section on FishServe's "Forms" web page.

Forms – FishServe

Or, update your FishServe details

If you already have a client number, and you need to update your details, contact FishServe.

Contact us – FishServe

3. Apply to register on the Fishing Vessel Register

FishServe manages the Fishing Vessel Register on our behalf. You can apply to register your vessel with them either:

  • online (if you've registered for FishServe's Online Services)
  • by completing an application form.

The form you need will depend on:

  • the size of the vessel, and
  • whether the vessel is foreign-owned.

To find the form that you need, check the "Vessels" section on FishServe's "Forms" web page.

Forms – FishServe

What to expect after registration

Once your vessel is registered, FishServe will give you a certificate of registration. It'll show your vessel’s registration number. Details will be entered into the public Fishing Vessel Register.

Contact FishServe for information from the register

Registering a foreign-owned vessel (FOV) as a fishing vessel

Vessels that are registered in a foreign country cannot fish in New Zealand waters. To fish, foreign-registered vessels need to:

  • register as a New Zealand ship with Maritime New Zealand (also called re-flagging), then
  • register as a commercial fishing vessel with FishServe.

When you apply to register a FOV, we check for:

  • past fisheries offences by anyone involved with the vessel
  • any issues with:
    • fisheries management
    • vessel safety
    • employment
  • compliance with maritime rules around:
    • pollution
    • discharge of waste material.

Why your vessel must be flagged to New Zealand

Re-flagging ensures that all vessels operating in our waters have to follow New Zealand law around:

  • fisheries
  • maritime safety
  • employment.

The requirement that FOVs must be flagged to New Zealand was introduced in 2016. This happened after a ministerial inquiry into foreign charter vessels. The re-flagging rules involve:

  • MPI
  • the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
  • Immigration New Zealand
  • Maritime New Zealand.

Report of the ministerial inquiry into the use and operation of foreign charter vessels [PDF, 1.6 MB]

Progress on implementing the recommendations made by the ministerial inquiry into the use and operation of foreign charter vessels [PDF, 205 KB]

Find out more

Registration of commercial ships in part of the New Zealand register of ships – Maritime New Zealand [PDF, 104 KB]

Crewing and watchkeeping rules – Maritime New Zealand

Fishing ship design, construction, and equipment – Maritime New Zealand

Marking requirements for commercial vessels, tenders and fishing gear [PDF, 217 KB]

New functions for fisheries observers [PDF, 660 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about registering your vessel as a New Zealand ship, contact Maritime New Zealand:

If you have questions about registering your vessel on the Fishing Vessel Register, contact FishServe:

If you have questions for MPI, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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