The Cunard cruise ship Queen Elizabeth has been refused entry to New Zealand due to biofouling issues. Biofouling refers to the accumulation of various objects and sea life, such as algae, bacteria, plankton, sea grasses, mussels, and barnacles, on a ship’s hull. After cleaning the hull, the cruise ship’s January 7 sailing was delayed by 48 hours.
New Zealand has strict laws designed to prevent the introduction of foreign species via the hulls of ships. These laws were implemented six years ago, but several ships have been caught off-guard in the last two weeks, forcing them to change course and complete a full hull cleaning before being allowed into New Zealand.
Queen Elizabeth Refused Entry to New Zealand
Although she had already sailed in New Zealand in December, the Cunard cruise ship Queen Elizabeth has been refused re-entry to the country this time around. After being warned by New Zealand authorities to have the hull cleaned up, the cruise ship was forced to postpone the sailing of the January 7 cruise from Sydney.
Queen Elizabeth is already the fourth cruise ship in a week to have been told to clean up biofouling on the vessel’s hull, an issue that occurs naturally. As ships sail, sea life, such as algae, plankton, sea grasses, mussels, and barnacles, attach to the hull.
While this would not usually be a problem, New Zealand’s strict biosecurity rules call for biofouling to be removed not to disturb the delicate balance of the ecosystems in the country.
Cunard said in a statement the company would ensure they are fully compliant with the local rules and regulations: “Cruise operators along with the broader shipping industry are adapting to the standard, with a wide variety of commercial ships also requiring additional cleaning to meet the requirements in 2022/23.”
“We are dedicated to protecting the communities we visit and we are committed to ensuring that our hull maintenance program meets the standards required in 2023 and beyond.”
Queen Elizabeth was due to set sail from Sydney on January 7 but has only recently departed. At a minimum, the vessel will miss calls to Fjordland National Park and Dunedin, New Zealand.
Following calls to Christchurch, New Zealand, on January 12, Wellington, New Zealand, on January 13, and succeeding calls to Tauranga, Auckland, and the Bay of Islands, will likely take place as scheduled.
Biofouling Rules Introduced in 2018
Several cruise ships have been caught off guard by the current rules on biofouling, which New Zealand introduced in 2018. However, as very few cruise ships sailed to New Zealand in the last two years, cruise lines were not fully prepared.
The current increase in vessels that have their voyages affected due to necessary cleaning comes from an increased engagement of the New Zealand authorities with the cruise lines.
Biosecurity New Zealand environmental health manager Paul Hallett said: “The current biofouling standards were introduced in 2018, and Biosecurity New Zealand undertakes significant stakeholder engagement to help vessel operators comply with bio-fouling requirements. As a result, we have seen an increase in proactive management of vessel hulls by operators and in awareness of our bio-fouling rules.
“For context, a total of 6121 international vessels arrived in New Zealand from January 1, 2020, to September 2022. Of these, 6 percent (377) were issued a notice of direction to address bio-fouling issues.”