Biosecurity officers now have the ability to fine cruise ship passengers who bring ashore foods or other items that could carry dangerous pests or diseases.
The new fines came into place last week, allowing officers to issue infringement notices of $400 to cruise ship passengers who unintentionally break New Zealand's biosecurity rules.
Biosecurity New Zealand already has the power to prosecute passengers who intentionally smuggle risk goods ashore.
"So far we haven't had to issue any fines, which suggests the cruise lines are doing a good job of informing passengers about their biosecurity responsibilities," says Steve Gilbert, border clearance services director, Biosecurity New Zealand.
He says fines can currently only be issued to travellers who are permanently leaving a vessel. Biosecurity New Zealand is working to extend the infringement notices to passengers who temporarily come ashore.
"This is about empowering our officers to send a clear message about how important biosecurity is to New Zealand," says Mr Gilbert.
"Some people think cruise ship biosecurity is all about detector dogs. But ultimately our officers are our most important asset. We don't always need to bring in detector dog teams to help with clearances, but we couldn't protect New Zealand without our skilled and dedicated officers."
Cruise ship clearances
Biosecurity New Zealand uses a wide range of tools to help quarantine officers manage biosecurity risk from cruise ships. Many of them are used on a case-by-case basis depending on risk. The tools include:
- The use of intelligence (for example, the previous compliance history of vessels) to target biosecurity checks.
- Mobile x-ray technology to assist with inspection of bags carried by passengers coming ashore.
- Random verification checks of disembarking cruise ship passengers.
- An accreditation scheme that involves vetting fresh produce and other food items aboard the vessel to ensure they meet strict biosecurity rules.
- Dog teams to sniff out fresh produce.
- Infringement notices for departing passengers.