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Report regarding cruise ships in Akaroa Harbour released

Further scientific research is required to determine any environmental impact caused by cruise ships operating in Akaroa Harbour, regional harbourmaster Jim Dilley says, following the release of an Environmental Risk Assessment report.

Environment Canterbury commissioned the report, including a review of all available research, in response to concerns from within the Akaroa community that cruise ships operating in the harbour may be damaging the seabed.

“The preliminary findings are that any potential effects can be appropriately managed, but it does highlight that the available research is not sufficient to provide a definitive answer, and recommends further research be conducted,” Dilley said.

“Environment Canterbury will require the cruise industry to provide an independent scientific study during the next 24 months, which we believe will identify exactly what is taking place and will allow us to address any concerns. The timeframe is necessary to determine any ecological impact and recovery cycle.”

In parallel with the report, the Regional Harbourmaster’s Office and the cruise industry worked with community groups and Christchurch City Council to identify areas of concern to ensure suitable risk mitigations are in place for the upcoming cruise season.

About the report

The report (PDF File, 18.45MB) – an Environmental Risk Assessment – is a review of existing science and information. It was commissioned to establish what possible effects, if any, may be caused by the operation of cruise ships in Akaroa Harbour. It was completed by the Cawthron Institute.

The key findings are:

• There is minimal available science
• There is potential for some effects of varying degrees
• The direct disturbance of the seabed could be considered to have less than minor to minor adverse effects
• Based on the science available, effects are manageable if mitigations are in place

Find out more about the report

What are the operating standards

These control measures have included the provision of an agreed set of standards for vessels operating at Akaroa. These standards, the Akaroa Harbour Principles of Operation, are included in the updated Navigation Safety Operating Requirements (PDF File, 4.31MB).

They include:
1. Identified anchorages and requirement to use these anchorages. This provides safe anchorage locations where ships do not endanger each other and ensure any seabed disturbance does not impact wide swaths of the Harbour
2. Wind limits are in place that prevents ships entering the Harbour, or remaining in the harbour, when it is unsafe to do so. The wind limits also serve to minimise the possible dragging of an anchor and limit the swing area of a vessel. This minimises possible seabed disturbance
3. Minimum under keel clearance (UKC) requirements are in place to ensure safe navigation and additionally, they minimise possible disturbance of the seabed
4. There are noise controls in place
5. Light controls replicating Department of Conservation standards (Akaroa Harbour Principles of Operation)
6. Marine oil pollution response plan
7. On-site rapid pollution response equipment
8. Trained pollution response staff (Environment Canterbury and Depart of Conservation)
9. Operational oversight and audit (on-site staff and manning)
10. An agreed set of principles of operation outlining expected standards of operation
11. Limitations on the use of thrusters except for the safe manoeuvring of the vessel and/or safe embarkation/disembarkation of passengers
12. Limitations on the use of certain fuels

Upcoming cruise ship season

The ongoing season will see about 92 cruise ships of all sizes visit Akaroa Harbour. For the 2020/2021 cruise season, with the opening of the new Lyttelton cruise ship berth, about 40 smaller cruise ships are expected in Akaroa.

With the current control measures and mitigations in place, and the lower volume of cruise ships expected for the 2020/2021 cruise season, Environment Canterbury is satisfied there is no breach of the Resource Management Act.

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