New Zealand gov't launches probe into foreign vessels

15:36, July 14, 2011      

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The New Zealand's government announced Thursday that it would conduct a ministerial inquiry into the operation of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters.

Initiated by Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson, the inquiry would consider all key issues relevant to the use of FCVs in New Zealand's EEZ waters, which extend 200 km offshore.

Heatley said the full terms of reference for the inquiry were yet to be established, but it was important for both the government and the country's fishing sector to affirm New Zealand' s international reputation as a world-leading fisheries manager.

"To do this we need to ensure we are getting the best economic return from our deep sea fisheries, that robust employment protection provisions available on land are reflected at sea, and that the monitoring of FCVs and domestic deep sea operators in our waters is adequate," said Heatley.

Wilkinson said reports alleging the failure of some FCVs to comply with proper employment requirements, including crew working conditions, and vessel safety standards imposed by New Zealand had raised the government's concern.

"We also acknowledge the recent concerns expressed by the Seafood Industry Council and others representing the interests of crew members regarding these issues," said Wilkinson.

"We decided a ministerial inquiry was the appropriate course of action as a number of ministerial portfolios have an interest in FCV engagement and operation. Fisheries, labour, immigration, transport as well as foreign affairs and trade all have an involvement in this area," she said.

The Cabinet would consider full terms of reference for the inquiry, independent candidates to lead the inquiry, resources and inquiry reporting time frames over the next month.

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