Patrol vessel to target international yachts

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Media contact: MPI Media Phone

Biosecurity and Customs officers will join naval personnel aboard HMNZS Rotoiti to keep an eye on international yachts arriving in Northland.

The Navy’s inshore patrol vessel leaves Devonport today on a four-day surveillance operation of the Northland coast.

“For the Ministry for Primary Industries, the surveillance is part of a programme of initiatives to educate yachties about biosecurity risk and to ensure they are compliant with New Zealand’s biosecurity rules,” says Sharon Tohovaka, MPI Manager North Ports.

She says two detections of Queensland fruit fly in Whangarei earlier this year prompted MPI’s involvement in the surveillance operation. 

“We have no evidence that yachts were the pathway for the fruit flies, but we want to make sure the path is closed. The surveillance will help provide this reassurance, as will other initiatives we’ve adopted to enhance yacht biosecurity.”

All yachts arriving in Northland must land at an approved port (either Opua or Marsden Cove) to ensure potential biosecurity risk goods are secured or destroyed.

“Both MPI and Customs want to make sure that yachts are making landfall where they are supposed to, so we can keep tabs on what is coming ashore.”

Customs Manager Cargo Operations Bruce Berry says maritime patrols on the coastal approaches to New Zealand are part of the annual operations of New Zealand border agencies to ensure compliance, and to deter potential criminal behaviour.

“Customs’ focus is to ensure there are no prohibited goods such as drugs, weapons, or objectionable material on board. Such surveillance operations build on our multi-layered process, which includes electronic checks before arrival and physical checks where appropriate, to assess any possible risks.”

RNZAF P-3K2 Orion flights will support the naval operation by relaying the position of any yachts or other vessels of interest in the vicinity of the patrol vessel and further out along approach routes to New Zealand.

The patrol vessel will hail any identified yachts. MPI and Customs staff will ensure that border requirements are met and, if need be, direct the craft to the nearest approved port to undergo checks.

Officers will also have the use of a boarding craft from HMNZS Rotoiti to make contact with any anchored vessels.

“The operation is about taking a multi-agency approach with support of the Defence Force to track and make contact with yachts to ensure they have the information to complete border clearances,” says Tohovaka.

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