Cruise ships have been a popular discussion point in Canterbury during the past few summers, particularly in Akaroa where there has been an increased presence of cruise ships while the Lyttleton port remains unavailable. Environment Canterbury’s Harbourmaster’s Office is one of a range of bodies that plays a key role in managing cruise ship activity in our region.
Environmental Risk Assessment report
Environment Canterbury commissioned a report from the Cawthron Institute regarding cruise ships in Akaroa Harbour. It was sought to establish what possible effects, if any, may be caused by the operation of cruise ships in Akaroa Harbour.
Frequently asked questions
These frequently asked questions below have been provided to assist people with further information about the cruise ships and what they mean for the region.
If you have any questions or concerns about cruise ships, please feel free to contact us.
- Contact the ship before the vessel gets to the harbour and discuss weather conditions prior to determining if they are within set operating parameters. If so, grant permission to enter and confirm which anchorage site is approved for use
- Meet the agent at the launch and discusses any requirements or issues.
- Update the vessel on conditions once the vessel is in the harbour and enforce speed and wake requirements.
- Discuss tender operations, which marine VHF radio working channel they will use, and which side of the wharf pontoon to use, with vessel.
- Monitor the tenders and other vessels on the wharf during the day, noting movements of all vessels. Ensure all vessels allow fair use of the wharf.
- Maintain communications with the ship as necessary and resolve any potential issues or concerns.
- Grants permission for the vessel to leave if conditions are within operational parameters.
Each cruise ship operator (via their shipping agent) requests access to wharf and harbour facilities up to 18 months in advance. For Akaroa, this involves:
- Requesting access to Akaroa Harbour from the Harbourmaster’s Office. This is only declined if the Harbourmaster’s Office has navigation safety concerns.
- Requesting access to the Akaroa wharf from Christchurch City Council. This is declined if the capacity of the wharf is exceeded.
On extremely rare occasions, cruise ship visits have been declined due to wharf access availability.
Cruise ship companies arrange their schedules independently. Each ship has its own itinerary, and these will sometimes double up.
Multi-ship visits to the harbour on the same day may involve a variety of different-sized vessels and are rare in the context of the wider season.
The Harbourmaster’s Office is responsible for ensuring the safety of navigation.
To ensure safe navigation the Harbourmaster’s Office has a strict set of operating criteria for all ships more than 40m in length.
In addition, all vessels are tracked and recorded remotely as well as by staff on site. Lead lights are provided to guide a ship to the entrance of the harbour. A rigorous safety management system ensures all procedures and requirements are complied with.
Christchurch City Council is responsible for the Akaroa wharf, the public toilet and local parks, rubbish removal, issuing temporary traffic management plans (required when activities vary the normal operations on a road), and managing commercial operators on Council land and facilities.
There’s a general expectation that once the Lyttleton Port has a cruise berth, the number of cruise ships going to Akaroa will decrease.
Lyttleton Port Company is discussing bookings with cruise ship operators. A cruise ship schedule for the 2020/2021 season will be available in the next year.
Yes, emissions from ships are controlled by the Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998, Regional Coastal Plan and Annex VI of the International Marine Pollution regulations.
Environment Canterbury has conducted detailed studies of air quality at Lyttleton and found that air quality is comfortably within World Health Organisation and national guidelines – despite significantly greater shipping, rail, and road traffic than is the case in Akaroa.
Given this, we can be confident there are no issues with air quality in Akaroa from cruise ships.
There have also been recent changes in international regulations which require ships to use low sulphur fuel or to have ‘scrubbers’ which remove certain pollutants from exhaust discharges.
The measurement point applicable for noise sources outside the port areas is the boundary of the Coastal Marine Area. Generally speaking, the boundary of the Coastal Marine Area is approximately the high tide line.
There are a handful of exemptions regarding noise emissions under Rule 8.21(f) of the Regional Coastal Environmental Plan, the most likely to apply to cruise ships include: the normal operation of navigational aids, safety signals, warning devices, including ships sirens, and pressure relief valves.
Ships may disturb the seabed by using their propulsion equipment, thrusters, and anchors. This may produce discoloured water near a ship, similar to the discolouration seen during periods of rough weather. The use of propulsion equipment, thrusters, and anchors is allowed as part of maritime law.
The Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 applies. Schedule 4, section 15, describes “ship propulsion” as part of the “normal operations” of the ship. Environment Canterbury has discussed this with cruise ship operators and secured agreement that the use of thrusters will continue to be minimised in Akaroa.
Environment Canterbury believes anchoring is preferable to the use of thrusters, where possible. Further discussions are underway with cruise ship companies around how they can further minimise their environmental impacts.
Environment Canterbury, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, Christchurch City Council, and ChristchurchNZ, is reviewing cruise ship activity in Akaroa.