New Zealand (NZ) is a relatively small nation by
traditional measures. With a total land mass of just 263,000 square
kilometres, a population of around 4.5 million and GDP of around
$240 billion, the nation is considerably smaller than its closest
neighbour, and largest trading partner, Australia. However,
notwithstanding its relatively small size, NZ is a significant
player in the Asia Pacific maritime sector and is rapidly
developing into a major transhipment hub in the South Pacific. In
the year ended December 2014:
37.7 million tonnes was of product was exported out of NZ sea
21.3 million tonnes of product was imported into NZ sea
with a combined value of more than $87.7 billion.
Whilst imports and exports make up the majority of total
loads/discharges, NZ sea ports continue to process a significant
volume of transhipped/re-exported goods – predominantly
through Port Taranaki (of which 90% of total goods moved in 2014
comprised transhipped goods) and Port Nelson (of which 40% of total
goods moved in 2014 comprised transhipped goods).
This most recent annual data collected by the NZ Ministry of
Transport silences any doubt that NZ's tenacious shipping
industry is in robust health. If current trends continue, one would
expect to see the level of activity in NZ sea ports increase in the
short to medium term.
As is the case in Australia, coastal shipping is an integral
component of NZ's domestic freight tasks. However, in contrast
to Australia's present cabotage laws, NZ has taken a fairly
modest approach to the regulation of coastal shipping.
To what extent is coastal shipping regulated in NZ?
In short, not much. NZ coastal shipping is regulated in the main
under Section 198 of the Marine Transport Act 1994 (NZ)
and related provisions of the NZ Ship Registration
Act. The terms of Section 198 are limited in scope and
are flexible in design, following a move to a more liberalised
approach to a range of public policy areas in the 1990's.
In summary, Section 198 restricts access to coastal trade
foreign ships on demise charter to a NZ based operator; or
a foreign ship that is passing through NZ waters while on a
continuous journey from a foreign port to another foreign port, and
is stopping in NZ to load or unload international cargo.
How does the approach in NZ compare to Australia's current
and proposed cabotage laws?
Notwithstanding the geographic proximity and close trading
relationship, there are key differences between the NZ approach,
the current Australian position under the Coastal Trading
(Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 (The Act) and the
Government's proposed laws for coastal shipping (as set out in
the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015).
The table below sets out the key differences between the three
What will the future hold for coastal shipping in NZ?
As will be apparent from the above table, NZ's cabotage laws
are in contrast to the bureaucratic and inflexible laws that
shippers and carriers presently endure in Australia.
Whilst there are some industry stakeholders in NZ calling for
the re-introduction of tighter regulation (most significantly after
the Rena incident in 2012, to ensure appropriate safety
and environmental protection) these suggestions have, so far, not
led to any formal commitment to review the current regime.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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