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The DL Marigold became the first international vessel to be ordered to leave a New Zealand port for biofouling reasons

Dirty vessel ordered
to leave New Zealand

A dirty vessel ordered to leave Tauranga in March has been allowed to return after being cleaned outside New Zealand, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

WEB EXCLUSIVE

MPI ordered the DL Marigold to leave New Zealand within 24 hours after its arrival on 4 March. The order followed the discovery of dense fouling of barnacles and tube worms on the bulk carrier’s hull and other underwater surfaces by MPI divers.

“The longer the vessel stayed in New Zealand, the greater chance there was for unwanted marine species to spawn or break away from the ship, so we had to act quickly,” says Steve Gilbert, MPI’s border clearance director. “The vessel won’t be allowed back until it can provide proof it has been thoroughly cleaned.”

Mr Gilbert says it is the first time MPI has ordered an international vessel to leave a New Zealand port for biofouling reasons. “We were dealing with severe contamination in this case.”

Deep-sea cleaning

The DL Marigold arrived in Tauranga from Indonesia and had been due to stay in New Zealand waters for nine days. On being ordered to leave, the vessel was first sailed to Fiji. However, Fiji’s biosecurity authority also refused entry to the ship, citing similar biosecurity concerns.

It is understood a team of divers from New Zealand were then contracted to clean the vessel’s hull in international waters off Fiji. “Offshore locations are not ideal,” says Dr Rob Hilliard, biofouling consultant and principle at Intermarine Consulting. “Presumably it was considered the best option in this case by DL Marigold’s operators given its cargo constraints and distance to alternative ports where the fouling poses a lower, acceptable biosecurity threat.”

Dr Hilliard says high-seas hull cleaning for biosecurity purposes is costly and prone to delays. “Mobilising and progress can be slowed by a range of logistics, safety and efficiency issues, such as securing a fit-for-purpose diving platform for remote deep-sea operations, and managing operations beside a ship that’s not anchored.”

Taking a hard line

The vessel returned to Tauranga on 28 March to finish unloading a shipment of palm kernel. “We checked photos taken after the cleaning operation. These were provided to MPI prior to the vessel’s arrival. We are now satisfied the ship is very clean and meets New Zealand’s biosecurity requirements,” says Sharon Tohovaka, MPI’s border clearance services capability manager.

“The move to ban the vessel until it could be cleaned shows New Zealand’s strict biosecurity system in action. MPI won’t hesitate to take a hard line on vessels with severe biofouling in the lead-up to the introduction of new biosecurity rules in May 2018.”

The new rules will require all international vessels to arrive in New Zealand with a clean hull. During the interim period, MPI can take action in cases of severe biofouling.

“Most vessels can achieve this requirement by following International Maritime Organisation biofouling guidelines,” Ms Tohovaka says.


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