Arrival process steps

New Zealand has strict biosecurity requirements for arriving vessels. Procedures must be followed to minimise the risk of bringing unwanted pests and diseases into New Zealand. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
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What you need to know

An overview of the requirements for arriving vessels.

Types of ships and vessels covered by this process

This process covers all vessels arriving in New Zealand including:

  • commercial ships (cargo and other vessels)
  • cruise ships
  • project vessels (including oil exploration and extraction rigs and vessels)
  • yachts and other pleasure or recreational craft.

The vessel operator or on-board person-in-charge is responsible for ensuring the requirements for arriving vessels are met.

Related processes

See other sections of this website if you're:

Plan ahead

If you're bringing a vessel to New Zealand, plan ahead. Make sure you're familiar with all the requirements, including requirements of other agencies like the NZ Customs Service (Customs).

Minimum requirements for all vessels

All vessels arriving in New Zealand must comply with minimum requirements, no matter the length of stay or the ports they are visiting. Extra requirements may be needed for vessels:

  • staying longer than about 3 weeks
  • visiting ports other than approved places of first arrival
  • that are cruise ships or have passengers.

As a minimum, all vessel operators must:

  • comply with the requirements for the type of vessel. This may require preparatory actions such as exchange of ballast water in a mid-ocean location, offshore inspection for certification of freedom from Asian gypsy moth, and (from 2018) management of biofouling on the hull.
  • plan to arrive at and only visit places of first arrival that are approved for your vessel type and cargo, and where relevant the numbers of passengers on board (for cruise ships)
  • complete and send all documentation to Customs and border agencies at least 48 hours before arrival. Documentation required is listed in Step 2: What you need to do
  • complete an application form if intending to arrive at a port other than a place of first arrival approved for your vessel. The application must give well-supported reasons for arriving at the specified place. Apply early because it can take up to 10 days to respond to a request. (Cruise ships should apply well before the start of a season in New Zealand)
  • treat or exchange any ballast water intended for discharge to the standard required unless using a shipboard treatment system
  • manage all biosecurity hazards including keeping decks and holds free of pockets of standing water (mosquito habitat), spills and residues from cargo, and debris that may harbor pests such as vermin and insects
  • keep food stores and garbage well secured and ensure nothing is disposed of overboard unless in compliance with international conventions (MARPOL Annex V)
  • meet the Requirements for Vessels regarding stores, dunnage (wooden packaging) and garbage on board
  • meet import health standard requirements for any cargo including empty sea containers
  • try to keep your vessel pest-free and report any pests or insects such as ants, bees, wasps or beetles on board to MPI
  • be aware of special controls in place to prevent the spread of Asian gypsy moth and other specific pests of current concern. Find out more
  • make sure any passengers and crew comply with New Zealand entry requirements.

Customs also has information on its website for commercial vessels and cruise ships.

Managing biosecurity risks

Vessels coming to New Zealand might bring with them unwanted pests, diseases, or other risk organisms. All vessel operators should be familiar and comply with the standard – Requirements for Vessels Arriving in New Zealand. In particular they should note the controls in place to manage specific biosecurity risks, including:

  • pests
  • garbage
  • food provisions
  • wood packaging and dunnage
  • animals and plants
  • ballast water
  • cargo.

Download Requirements for Vessels Arriving in New Zealand [PDF, 753 KB]

Watch out for hitchhiker pests

Vessels should be free of ants, bees, wasps, beetles, vermin and other hitchhiker animals and insects. Of particular concern are Asian gypsy moth (usually found on vessels as egg masses), brown marmorated stink bugs and – in wooden parts of vessels – termites. Extra requirements are in place to ensure these pests do not enter New Zealand. You need to check if your vessel requires offshore inspection for specific pests.

Wood packaging

Vessel operators should follow requirements for any wood packaging material on board such as dunnage, pallets, and wooden spacers.


Yachts and other pleasure craft sailing to New Zealand must meet the requirements that are mainly the same as all other vessels. These requirements are detailed in Step 2: What you need to do

Skippers or operators of recreational vessels and super-yachts should also read information specific to yachts.

Cruise ships

Cruise ships have to comply with the same rules as other commercial vessels but should note that:

  • prior approval is needed to arrive at any place, such as Fiordland, that is not one of New Zealand's approved places of first arrival. If approval is given, special conditions will apply.
  • MPI inspectors will need to assess and inspect vessels before any passengers disembark.
  • before any passengers leave the vessel, a biosecurity announcement must be broadcast in relevant languages.

Project and fishing vessels

Project vessels include:

  • oil industry project vessels
  • barges and rigs
  • fishing vessels and other work boats transferring to operate in, or be based out of New Zealand for more than about 3 weeks.

Project vessel operators, charterers, or the company holding an EPA marine consent to carry out marine activities should contact MPI to discuss preparing to meet New Zealand's requirements – in particular how to minimise the transfer of marine pests on vessel hulls and other areas that have contact with the sea.

MPI will make an assessment and advise if any actions are needed before the vessel is brought to New Zealand.

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Send documentation before arrival

Vessel masters must send all documentation about the vessel, passengers, and cargo at least 48 hours before arrival in New Zealand.

The documents required will vary depending on your intentions in New Zealand, and the vessel's travel history. In the advance arrival notice form, you'll have to indicate if the vessel has:

  • animals on board
  • visited Asian gypsy moth risk areas in the past 12 months
  • been inspected and certified free of Asian gypsy moth
  • carried grains or livestock in the past 3 months
  • any stowaway animals, bees, pests, reptiles, insects, nests or signs of infestation
  • wooden packaging (dunnage) on board and if it's stamped 'ISPM 15' or certificated.

Information about ballast water and biofouling management is also required.

Document list

Email completed documentation to the NZ Customs Service (Customs):

MPI will automatically get documents sent to these Customs' email addresses. If you need to contact MPI directly, email

Completing biofouling and ballast water documents

The Biofouling and Ballast Water Declaration is in 3 parts. You will need to complete Part 3 of the declaration only if you intend to, or may, discharge ballast water within New Zealand waters.
Vessel operators are required to submit the forms when the vessel is 48 hours out from New Zealand.

If ballast water exchange is not completed 48 hours before arrival, mention this in your pre-arrival documentation and send the declaration as soon as it's available.

Where MPI is satisfied that the declaration shows that ballast water has been exchanged with mid-ocean water or treated by approved shipboard treatment, permission will be granted to release ballast water in New Zealand waters. Do not discharge ballast unless you have received this permission.

Arrive at an approved place of first arrival

Operators must ensure their vessel arrives to New Zealand by going directly to an approved Place of First Arrival (POFA). This must be a POFA that has been approved to receive the type of vessel and cargo.

When can a vessel arrive at a location other than a POFA?

Arrival at a location that is not a POFA is only permitted if there is an emergency, or if the vessel operator has applied for and received prior approval from MPI to arrive at a location that is not a POFA.

You'll need to complete an application form if intending to arrive at a port other than a place of first arrival approved for your vessel. The application must give well-supported reasons for arriving at the specified place. Apply early because it can take up to 10 days to respond to a request.

Where a cruise ship company is considering making vessel arrivals to New Zealand at popular cruise destinations which are not designated as POFA (such as Opua and Milford Sound), application to MPI should be made well in advance of the cruise season.

Emergency shelter

A vessel operator must seek and await MPI permission if a vessel needs to take emergency shelter near shore before arrival at the intended arrival place. Emergency shelter may be sought for reasons of unforeseen circumstances such as if weather conditions or damage to the vessel make it impossible or impractical to go directly to the arrival place.

If you need emergency shelter, either:

Inform passengers and crew of their requirements

If passengers or crew are permanently disembarking, hand out passenger arrival cards before arrival.

All passengers or crew need to go through the usual immigration and Customs procedures when leaving the vessel in New Zealand. When disembarking temporarily, any items they are carrying that pose a biosecurity risk need to be declared including food and drink. The items may be inspected by an MPI quarantine inspector to decide whether the items can be landed.

Cruise ship announcement

If you are in charge of a cruise ship, you must broadcast an announcement for disembarking passengers and crew. New Zealand's strict rules about not taking food and other risk items ashore can also be promoted to passengers using videos and newsletters. This will help gangway inspections to run smoothly and ensure excursions are not delayed.

Yacht skippers must radio ahead before arrival

Yacht skippers must notify Customs and MPI of intentions to land in New Zealand at least 48 hours before their planned arrival, or when the vessel is 12 nautical miles from the coastline.

They can make contact by calling Maritime Radio on one of these frequencies:

  • 4125Khz
  • 6215Khz
  • VHF Ch 16.

Get the right biosecurity processing for your vessel

Biosecurity processing differs depending on where the vessel will visit and the length of stay in New Zealand.

Short-stay vessels only visiting POFAs

Vessels in this category are those that:

  • will be arriving at and visiting only approved places of first arrival, and
  • are staying in New Zealand less than about 3 weeks.

These vessels do not need full biosecurity processing. Biosecurity risk goods on board (like food stores, garbage, dirty equipment, uncleared cargo) do not have to be removed. However, risk goods must be well secured to prevent the goods or contamination leaving the vessel (apart from through the appropriate process). They may need to be contained to prevent associated pests or diseases being transported to land. Risk goods, such as food must not be disposed of overboard unless in compliance with the international convention, MARPOL Annex V.

  • Vessel operators must complete a Master's Declaration.
  • Vessels without full biosecurity clearance can only visit and move directly between approved Places of First Arrival (POFA).
  • An inspector may board the vessel at any time to ensure biosecurity risks are being managed.

All other vessels – long-stay or visiting non-POFA ports

Full biosecurity processing is carried out if any of the following apply. 

The vessel:

  • might remain in New Zealand for an extended period – over about 3 weeks
  • will stay in New Zealand permanently
  • will visit places other than approved Places of First Arrival.

A Master's Declaration for Full Biosecurity Processing must be completed for vessels in this category. For yachts this is usually completed in the presence of an inspector. Other vessel operators should inform MPI if they plan to stay longer than 3 weeks, or visit places other than POFAs. They may choose to send the Master's Declaration with the Advance Notice of Arrival.

Dealing with risk goods under full biosecurity processing

The person in charge and others on board will be required to declare and hand over all possible risk goods. An inspector will ensure all risk goods are dealt with – prohibited food items and the garbage will be removed for destruction (or otherwise dealt with) and other items removed, sent for treatment or dispatched overseas. After removal of all risk goods the vessel is free to travel anywhere in New Zealand.

Ensure your vessel has a clean hull

All vessels arriving in New Zealand must provide evidence of biofouling management before they arrive.

The Craft Risk Management Standard (CRMS) for Biofouling outlines the requirements. These differ, depending on the length of your stay.

Ensure ballast water meets requirements before discharge in New Zealand

Detailed requirements for ballast water are in the import health standard (IHS) – Ships' Ballast Water from All Countries. This was updated in 2015 to include approved shipboard treatments.

Key points to note about ballast water management

  1. Ships are required to treat all ballast water intended for discharge in New Zealand waters.
  2. Most ships do this by exchanging ballast water loaded in other countries for mid-ocean water on their way to New Zealand.
  3. Some vessels have shipboard treatment systems which can be used to treat the ballast if the vessel uses an MPI-approved treatment for ballast water.
  4. Ballast water declaration forms with individual tank information on management of the water are a key part of the documents you must supply before arrival.
  5. A vessel must not discharge ballast water into New Zealand waters without permission from MPI.
  6. If a vessel is unable to fully meet the requirements of the IHS, contact MPI as early as possible to discuss – email

International regulations for ballast water are likely to come into force soon. New Zealand is ready to move to new maritime rules that allow enforcement of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) ballast water regulations through our port state control agency – Maritime NZ.  Also, you can learn more about ballast water management by approved shipboard treatment systems on the IMO website.

Make sure cargo and containers meet import requirements

Check that all goods, sea-containers (including empty containers), live animals, bulk grain, fertiliser and other cargo, to be offloaded in New Zealand, meet their specific import requirements.

For goods that are transported with wood packaging (like pallets and spacers), be aware of extra requirements for the packaging.

Find out more about importing:

Bulk imports of inorganic fertiliser – certification

Only approved importers who operate MPI-sanctioned Fertiliser Importation Systems may import bulk (in ship's hold) consignments of inorganic fertiliser. The vessels used may vary.

When importing bulk consignments of inorganic fertiliser, 3 types of certification are required:

  1. Certification for approved sampling.
  2. Certification for approved analysis.
  3. Certification for clean ship holds (free of biosecurity risk material).

Copies of these certificates are sent before arrival. If there are no certificates, there will be rigorous inspections on arrival.

Prepare for when an inspector comes aboard

MPI quarantine officers and Customs officers may board your vessel at the first port you arrive at, or any other port you go to.

After meeting with masters or their representatives to review and complete documentation, inspectors may inspect areas of the vessel. In some ports, a vessel arriving after 5pm may have an inspection the next morning, unless it is due to leave before 8am the next day. Inspectors may discuss appropriate pest and garbage management programmes (where needed). Areas for possible inspection include:

  • the decks, holds, superstructure for cleanliness and pests,
  • galleys, and provision areas for prohibited or contaminated food and pests
  • any animal on board to ensure they are secured
  • the vessel's garbage system
  • ballast tanks – and possibly take samples
  • any ship's dunnage, wood packaging, pallets and other timber
  • bicycles and sports gear for landing or use in New Zealand
  • any baggage or belongings of disembarking passengers and crew.

Inspectors will also look at documentation, including:

  • management plans and ship's records relating to ballast water
  • management plans and ship's records relating to biofouling management
  • garbage management plans
  • pest management plans.
How you know your vessel can arrive in New Zealand

Make sure you've met all MPI requirements

A vessel is ready to arrive in New Zealand when:

  • all required documentation has been completed and sent to MPI
  • any passengers and crew permanently leaving the voyage have completed a passenger arrival card
  • a certificate of freedom for Asian gypsy moth has been obtained if the vessel has visited a risk port in Far East Russia. (MPI recommends also getting certificates if a vessel has visited other risk areas to reduce any potential delays or costs on arrival)
  • all import requirements for goods for landing have been met
  • the vessel is aiming to arrive at a place of first arrival (POFA) that has been approved for the  vessel type, cargo offloading, and number of passengers coming ashore, – or is aiming to arrive at another specified place, and approval has been received allowing arrival at that place and arrangements have been made for biosecurity risk management outside a POFA.

Who to contact

If you have questions about bringing a vessel to New Zealand:

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