Commercial shipping

There are four harbours in the Canterbury region, including the two commercial ports - Lyttelton (operated by Lyttelton Port Company Limited) and Timaru (operated by PrimePort Timaru Limited) - as well as Akaroa and Kaikōura Harbours. Commercial vessels include all cargo vessels, cruise ships, fishing vessels, ferries and tourism operators throughout the region.

Key information

Rules, laws and bylaws

We operate under the New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code, which provides measures for the safe management of ships in ports and harbours. It includes measures to prevent serious harm to people and the protection of the marine environment. The code is administered by Maritime New Zealand. It is a voluntary code, with most regional councils and port companies in New Zealand having adopted its requirements.

Within Canterbury, the code has been assessed as being applicable to the Lyttelton and Timaru Pilotage Areas, the Kaikōura Peninsula area and Akaroa Harbour. In these areas, a risk assessment has been undertaken for commercial vessel operations and any recreational vessel activities that may have an impact on those operations. A Safety Management System (SMS) has also been implemented, covering all waterways across the region and coastal areas to the 12 nautical mile limit.

Each SMS contains operating procedures that are used along with codes of practice, the Direction (PDF File, 4.0MB) and our Bylaw, to govern the safety of navigation in our region. These are all living documents that are updated at various intervals (the longest being five-yearly for the bylaw) as we learn more over time and are able to incorporate more effective ways of operating.

The Maritime Transport Act 1994 sets out the responsibilities and functions of a regional council and Harbourmaster and provides powers to undertake those functions. The Act also provides for Maritime Rules (the Rules) to be enacted. Our bylaw, the Act, and the rules have requirements, including reporting, for certain operations. Following are the reporting requirements for hot work, pilots and pilot exempt masters, fuel transfers (such as bunkering) and tanker operations, and dangerous goods. The notification of higher risk operations is needed in order to build a coherent and useful picture of risk across the region.

Hot work and forms

Notification is required to undertake hot work on board any vessel in Lyttelton or Timaru.

The specific approval of the Harbourmaster is required to undertake hot work:

  • on any large vessel at Akaroa or Kaikōura
  • aboard vessels carrying certain hazardous cargoes; or
  • in/around fuel tanks/pipework.  

Details are available within part 6.1(2) of Harbourmaster's Direction 16-1. If the hot work is to be carried out under the conditions listed, you must contact the Harbourmaster's Office directly by emailing (or, if urgent, contact 03 328 9168) for approval.

For all other hot work notifications, please fill in the hot work form online.

Oil transfers (bunkering) and tanker operations

Notification of both tanker arrivals and hazardous liquid cargoes (such as oil and gas) transfers is required by law, this includes bunkering. A brief summary of reporting requirements from Maritime Rules Part 103 is:

  • Notice of the arrival of a ship carrying oil, or any noxious liquid substance, in bulk as cargo must be given not later than 12 hours before the arrival of the ship at port.
  • Notice of the transfer of oil or of any noxious liquid substance must be given not less than three hours, but not more than 96 hours before the transfer is due to begin.

For all oil transfer activities, please fill in the oil transfer notification form. For all oil (including related products such as LPG, methanol and bitumen) tanker arrivals, please fill in the fuel tanker notification form.

Dangerous goods

The Harbourmaster has elected Maritime Rules Part 24A.86 (2) to receive notifications only of Class 1 dangerous goods.

In practice, this reporting will be done by ships’ agents or the relevant port company who will hold the dangerous goods information on file (and have it available for inspection at any time by the Harbourmaster) rather than send it to the Harbourmaster.

Pilots and Pilot Exempt Masters

Under Maritime Rules Part 90 all pilots and Pilot Exempt Masters must provide a record of their annual port transits and any assessments undertaken during the year to the Harbourmaster during March of each year.

More information can be found in the Direction (PDF File, 3.96 MB).

Discharge rules for vessels

The discharge of garbage, including plastic, incinerator ash, cooking oil, and food waste, is a prohibited activity within Canterbury waters.

There are rules for the discharge of untreated sewage, treated sewage, bilge waste, and other contaminants. Please refer to the discharge rules for vessels (PDF file, 50.68KB) in the Canterbury Coastal Marine Area for details.

 Download document: Discharge rules for vessels (PDF file, 50.68KB)

Important rules and bylaws