Fiordland cruise costs questioned

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2014

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International cruise ship companies could steer clear of Fiordland because of double-dipping fee costs and strict biosecurity measures.

An Environment Southland report, released under the Official Information Act, says some cruise companies have asked why they are charged twice for the same service, which could have bearing on their continued deployment in the region.

In the 2013-14 season, Maritime New Zealand began charging for each passenger berth on every cruise ship coming to Milford.

This is in addition to Environment Southland's marine fee, which applies to all cruise ships that enter Southland.

The report, written by Southland maritime manager and harbourmaster Kevin O'Sullivan, who attended an industry representative meeting in the United States in March, says there were lengthy discussions with Holland America Line (HAL) managers on the cost of operating in the region.

Comparisons were drawn with other cruise destinations, and their view was fees were adding to that cost, he said.

"Additional costs lower the margins even further, and could mean HAL and other cruise companies will consider whether or not they will continue to operate in New Zealand, despite it being a popular location," he says.

This comes at a time when concerns have already been raised with the coming cruise ship season, with less vessel arrivals confirmed than previous years.

The report says there was no particular reason given for this though there had been a move to redeploy some of the larger ships to the North Island.

Another hot issue is strict biosecurity measures in Fiordland waters. O'Sullivan said the Ministry for Primary Industries' craft risk management standard, which addresses harmful hitchhiking organisms, was a principal topic for cruise ship environmental managers.

The standard, which comes into effect in 2018, will apply to all arriving vessels to address the risk of harmful organisms hitching a ride on hulls, ropes and other equipment.

Managers urged him to ensure New Zealand's requirements were not too dissimilar to other countries, he said.

He offered to work with the cruise lines and the ministry to come up with a workable system that ensures they can meet with New Zealand requirements and minimise any risks to Fiordland's biodiversity, he said.

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