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INZ Statement On Cruise Ship Le Laperouse

This statement can be attributed to Peter Elms, INZ National Manager Border.

The New Zealand border is currently closed to all but New Zealand citizens and residents and foreign nationals who are determined to have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand. This applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea.

On 18 December 2020, the foreign flagged cruise ship Le Laperouse was granted permission (subject to certain conditions) by the Director-General of Health under the Maritime Border Order to travel to New Zealand for the dual purposes of delivering the vessel to a business and to carry out refit or refurbishment of the vessel.

The permission was on the explicit condition that Le Laperouse “obtain any requisite visas from Immigration New Zealand before arrival in New Zealand”. This condition was made clear twice in the approval letter from the Ministry of Health together with a link to the relevant INZ webpage for maritime exceptions. It is, and has always been, a legal requirement that all persons on board must meet current immigration requirements.

On 21 December 2020, a New Zealand shipping agent representing the owners of Le Laperouse contacted Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for the first time, seeking information about the immigration process. INZ advised the shipping agent of the process for requesting an immigration exception for the crew on board Le Laperouse to come to New Zealand. No further contact was made by the agent with INZ until 8 January when the border exception request was lodged.

On Friday 8 January 2021, INZ received a border exception request for the 90 foreign crew members on board Le Laperouse. This request included a full crew list with names, nationalities and roles.

Just two days later, on Sunday 10 January 2021, Le Laperouse departed Jakarta and started its journey to New Zealand without having been granted the necessary immigration approvals, despite this being a condition of entry into New Zealand as outlined in the permission granted by the Director-General of Health.

On 12 January 2021, INZ was advised by the shipping agent that Le Laperouse was en route to New Zealand. INZ asked the shipping agent to communicate to all parties that the crew on the ship cannot enter New Zealand without the appropriate visas and that this may take longer than usual due to the large number of crew requesting border exceptions.

On 22 January 2021, 29 foreign crew members were granted border exceptions for New Zealand and 61 were declined.

For foreign crew to be granted an exception to enter New Zealand under these circumstances, they must be considered essential for the operation of the ship to travel to New Zealand for the purpose it was granted permission i.e. refit or refurbishment of the vessel. Immigration instructions specifically exclude anyone on a ship who is not essential for the purpose.

From the information provided, INZ determined that the 61 individuals who were declined are primarily employed to provide passenger services during the course of operating a cruise service (such as bar and restaurant staff, a masseuse, a hairdresser and housekeepers) and are not considered to be essential in the operation of the vessel to travel to New Zealand for the purpose of refit or refurbishment. Therefore they do not meet the relevant immigration instructions and were declined.

On 21 January 2021, INZ received a separate request for a border exception, this time under the ‘other critical worker’ category, even though a decision had not yet been made on the earlier request. Once a decision on the earlier request was made on 22 January 2021, INZ considered the ‘other critical worker’ request only in relation to the 61 workers who had been declined. As stated on INZ’s website, border exception requests under the ‘other critical worker’ category are generally decided within two weeks.

INZ considers all requests for a border exception against the relevant immigration instructions and individuals must meet the specific criteria to be granted an exception.

The ‘other critical worker’ criteria are based on whether the skills or experience the person has are readily obtainable in New Zealand or whether the worker is undertaking a time-critical role in specific areas (such as for work which brings significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy).

INZ was not satisfied that the skills, experience and qualifications of the individuals included in the request (such as bar and restaurant staff, a masseuse, a hairdresser and housekeepers) are not readily obtainable in New Zealand. INZ was also not satisfied that, based on the detail provided, there was a significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.

Therefore, the 61 crew members were also declined an exception under the ‘other critical worker’ category. This decision was communicated to the shipping agent on 27 January 2021.

The owners of Le Laperouse have utilised the services of a third party shipping agent to represent their interests. INZ has been in frequent communication with the shipping agent throughout the process.

It is however ship owner’s responsibility to ensure they fully understand the immigration process, their legal obligations and allow sufficient time to secure all of the necessary approvals before seeking to enter New Zealand.

INZ would like to reinforce that anyone wanting to come to New Zealand must make sure they have the appropriate immigration approval before making any plans or beginning their journey to New Zealand.

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