Cruise ship accreditation to stay

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A trial accreditation programme has boosted biosecurity for international cruise ships and will be expanded for future seasons, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The scheme involves collecting background information about vessel stores and pest management practices to determine biosecurity risk.

"It is about knowing where the stores came from, and making sure they are free of biosecurity risk should passengers bring them ashore," says Steve Gilbert, MPI Border Clearance Services Director.

MPI checked information supplied by cruise lines at the beginning of the season. Further checks were carried out during the summer. Vessels were also expected to provide additional biosecurity education to passengers before landing in New Zealand.

As part of the arrangement, accredited vessels received less biosecurity scrutiny on the gangway by MPI biosecurity officers when they arrived in New Zealand.

Mr Gilbert says the extra biosecurity education proved its worth with MPI finding fewer risk goods on passengers leaving accredited vessels than ships that weren't part of trial.

"Even when our officers did pick up fruit and other goods from passengers, we had peace of mind the items were free of risk, as they already been vetted under the inventory and pest management controls required under the scheme.

"I really want to give credit to the cruise industry, who have made a real effort to improve biosecurity compliance.

"By reducing gangway inspections, the scheme has also allowed us to free up officers to focus on higher risk work, including inspecting cargo for brown marmorated stink bug, and helping clear the huge increase in tourist numbers at Auckland Airport.

"In addition, the scheme improves the travel experience for disembarking passengers, as it means less holdups due to biosecurity checks."

He says the scheme will be expanded to cover more cruise vessels coming to New Zealand.

Two cruise lines took part in the trial. Accredited vessels made 401 port visits to New Zealand during the summer season.

The seizure rate (seizures of biosecurity risk goods per 1000 passengers) was 0.9 for accredited vessels compared with 1.5 for uncredited vessels.

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