The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will work closely with the cruise ship industry this season to manage biosecurity risk, especially fruit fly.
The cruise sector is expecting a record season, with passenger numbers forecast to jump 33% to 267,800.
“This, coupled with the enhanced fruit fly threat across the Tasman and other parts of the Pacific, has brought MPI and the cruise industry together to improve biosecurity,” says Stephanie Rowe, MPI's Head of Intelligence and Operations.
She says there will be more biosecurity detector dog teams available this season to screen disembarking passengers for food and plants. MPI will also introduce a portable x-ray machine at North Island ports to scan hand luggage coming off ships.
“Last year we introduced detector dogs to screen passengers at the regional ports. There will be more dog teams available for this type of work this summer.
“If our officers intercept a lot of food or other risk materials from passengers coming ashore when a vessel first lands, we will consider greater intervention at subsequent ports.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the cruise ship industry to identify which vessels we want to target, based on their history, where they are coming from and who the passengers are.”
One of the areas of focus will be working with cruise ship companies to ensure vessels carry stores that don't pose biosecurity risk, she says.
“Fruit fly host items, like apples and bananas, account for more than 75% of the biosecurity risk items our officers seize from cruise ship passengers coming ashore.
“If we know this food doesn't pose any biosecurity risk because it has been sourced from New Zealand or from a reputable supplier, we can actually reduce the amount of intervention by our quarantine officers.
“The other area is biosecurity awareness. We know, for example, that an announcement by the vessel's captain before passengers leave the ship is very effective at stopping food items coming ashore.
“We're talking with operators about what they can do and how we can help them to get our biosecurity messages across to passengers.
“The good thing is we're getting strong support from the industry. There's an appreciation that cruise ships have a vested interest in looking after New Zealand as tourism destination.”