Management of Foreign Charter Vessels
Most New Zealand fishing companies operating in the EEZ still utilise foreign charter vessels (FCVs) to some extent. The use of FCVs remains a legitimate method for companies to reduce their capital investment costs for EEZ harvesting. It is also a valid method for operators to secure access to overseas markets. Their use is particularly important for iwi companies who have received quota under the Fisheries Settlement but do not yet have the capital base to purchase their own commercial vessels.
In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety, hygiene standards and operation of foreign fishing vessels chartered by New Zealanders to fish in New Zealand waters. In response, a major review of management controls for FCVs (over 46 metres long) was conducted over the past year by the Ministry of Fisheries, together with industry.
The Ministry’s input into improving FCV operations is twofold. MFish led the work on the introduction of a new regime to improve conditions for Observers, and continued to support the work of the Department of Labour (DoL) on legislation that will improve remuneration and conditions for foreign fishing crews.
The new regime for FCVs, concerning the treatment of and conditions for Observers, came into effect on 1 July 2008.
Vessel operators are required to comply with the Standard by 1 July 2009 – this will be a condition of registration.
The DoL-led FCV review was guided by the Minister of Fisheries’ aim to facilitate a legitimate, high-quality FCV fleet to complement the New Zealand fishing industry. The result is a new accountability framework and revised minimum working and living conditions contained within a Code of Practice. It also includes a requirement for a New Zealand entity to guarantee payment of any monies owed to an FCV crew. Industry members must comply with these requirements if they wish to continue to obtain visa approvals for their required crew. An ongoing audit programme has also been put in place to ensure compliance with these new requirements.