New Zealand’s shipowners will come to Parliament today to argue that a piece of proposed legislation will kill off some of the services they run.

Their complaint is that the Government allows foreign ships to operate on the New Zealand coast but does not require them to meet the same standards or comply with the same regulations as their New Zealand counterparts.

The New Zealand shipping companies argue that this tilts the playing field against them.

They are particularly concerned about a change in the law to allow foreign ships to service the Chatham Islands.

They say that though two foreign-registered ships are currently serving the Chathams, they are doing so only by rorting the system.

A New Zealand ship, the Rangatira, served the islands for 12 years but ended its run last year when it could no longer afford to compete against foreign-registered ships which the New Zealand Shipping Federation claims were rorting the system.

There are currently two ships serving the islands.

Both are registered out of New Zealand.

One, the Southern Tiare, is owned by a Cook Island company which in turn is owned by the the Chatham Island Enterprise Trust.  

The vessel is chartered to the Operating Company, Chatham Island Shipping Ltd, a New Zealand Company, again owned by the Enterprise Trust. 


“We understand that the vessel is crewed by a largely Tongan crew employed by Chatham Island Shipping,’ says the Federation.

But because the law says that foreign vessels must actually visit foreign ports before they can claim to not be New Zealand vessels, the federation says the Southern Tiare makes a monthly trip to Norfolk Island.  

“The run to Norfolk does not appear on the shipping schedule on their website and appears to the Federation to be a work-around,” says the Federation.

“Apart from obviously low pay rates and absence of time off, of equal concern to the Committee should be issues relating to equipment failure and accidents,” says the Federation.

The Federation says the other vessel on the Chathams run, the Norfolk Guardian,  “also uses a side trip to Norfolk Island” to enable it to operate as a foreign vessel.

The situation on the New Zealand coast is more complex.

The foreign ships running down the coast from Auckland to South Island ports are genuinely overseas registered ships making the coastal trip as part of a bigger voyage.

Over the past week, three foreign ships have left Auckland for South Island ports carrying cargo from Auckland.

Demand for these services has increased since the Kaikoura earthquake.

But the New Zealand ship doing the same run – the Spirit of Canterbury – has been hard hit by Emissions Trading Scheme charges which are applied to its fuel oil.

Even if the foreign ships pick up their fuel in New Zealand, they do not have to pay the charges.

The New Zealand ship owners have been hit by a double whammy over the ETS charges — the credits have increased in price from $0.138 to $0.343 per lire of fuel but this year the Government has also removed the “two for one” subsidy on carbon emissions which effectively has doubled the amount the fuel purchasers must pay.

The Federations’ Executive Director, former National MP, Annabel Young, says that a further irony is that shipping is generally regarded as one of an environmental friendly forms of transport.

POLITIK approached Transport Minister Simon Bridges ion the issues raised by the federation.

He replied that he would check it out, but so far no further reply has been received.