Guidance for cruise ships anchoring at Akaroa Harbour

Environment Canterbury has issued guidance to cruise ship masters and operators wishing to anchor in Akaroa Harbour from 1 November 2021.

The potential disturbance of the seabed by vessel anchors, and reduction in water quality at Akaroa, has been a matter of public discussion and community concern for some time.

Environment Canterbury has worked with rūnanga, local community groups and the cruise industry to identify measures that will address these issues.

Ecological risk assessment conducted

In October 2019 an independently commissioned Ecological Risk Assessment on the impact of cruise ships operating in Akaroa Harbour was released.

Following its release, Regional Harbourmaster Jim Dilley said: “The preliminary findings are that any potential effects can be appropriately managed.”

Environment Canterbury has stated that disturbance of the seabed in Akaroa Harbour by cruise ships is permitted up to a volume of 5m3 in any 12-month period.

However, Dilley also noted that “the available research is not sufficient to provide a definitive answer, and recommends further research be conducted.”

As a result of this finding, Environment Canterbury provided a 24-month period (until 31 October 2021) for vessel operators to undertake independent scientific studies to demonstrate that they:

  • complied with the 5m3 rule;
  • were causing no adverse environmental effects; or
  • have applied for a consent to anchor.

From 1 November 2021 no cruise ships will be allowed to anchor within Akaroa Harbour unless they can demonstrate compliance with these conditions.

Providing certainty for ships wishing to visit Akaroa

Since giving notice of this requirement however, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many uncertainties, with the ability to gather scientific data on the possible effects of cruise ships clearly limited during lockdown or when no ships are visiting.

To mitigate the lack of available data, new guidance issued by Environment Canterbury provides the size of vessels, and the associated number of visits that may be made within any 12-month period, without breaching rules regarding seabed disturbance.

This guidance has been issued to help provide clarity to the community, vessel operators and businesses during the current period of uncertainty.

Dilley said: “By issuing this guidance 16 months early, we are clearly communicating which vessels we believe comply with the rules well in advance of the deadline.

"If we are provided with scientific data to the contrary, we will review our guidance and make any necessary changes.

"What this guidance aims to do is provide certainty about which cruise ships may visit Akaroa Harbour from 1 November 2021 – without it, that was likely to be none due to the lack of available data."

More information