Increasing number of cruise ships sent packing from New Zealand's shores over biosecurity rules

An increasing number of cruise ships are being sent packing from our shores for failing to comply with Aotearoa's biosecurity rules.

The latest is the Queen Elizabeth, which has been forced to spend more than half of the cruise out at sea. It drastically changed its itinerary and had to can its Fiordland and Dunedin stops to undergo additional undercarriage cleaning. 

Algae, barnacles, tube worms, and more attached to ship hulls are behind the upsurge in cruise ships being told to turn around.

"They may carry a disease that we don't want or it's just we don't have it here and they would thrive," said Paul Hallett, Biosecurity NZ environmental health manager. "As soon as you put your vessel in the water, the organisms start growing."

Three other cruise ships have also landed themselves in hot water over recent weeks for failure to meet hull cleaning standards. They are the Seven Seas Explorer, the Viking Orion, and the Coral Princess. 

The New Zealand Cruise Association denied Newshub's request for an interview on this, saying they will be meeting with the Ministry for Primary industries in a bid to work out why so many cruise ships are missing the mark. 

Tourists on board these ships are fuming. Comments on social media show the tip of the iceberg. 

"Poor passengers. Some wouldn't have a clue why they can't stop at some ports in New Zealand," one person said.

Another called it a "traumatic" reminder to "always keep your bottom free of algae".

Brent Thomas, commercial director for the House of Travel, said the current situation would be upsetting for passengers.

"That's disappointing for them and something cruise companies will have to work with passengers on," he said.

He's scratching his head about why the cruise companies even made the mistake in the first place.

"It is a little surprising because it is well known, it is something they can foresee, and they should therefore take all of the precautions they need."

Brook McRae, the managing director of Commercial Dive Specialists, who cleans boats for a living, said there isn't a shortage of divers out there, it's just expensive.

"They really just need to wear the cost of their own mistakes or else the rest of New Zealand pays for it."

McRae added the damage of unwanted pests can be irreversible.

"Like Caulerpa on Great Barrier Island has arrived there now, and it wasn't in New Zealand before … that stuff has spread over hectares," he said. "It's like kikuyu, it just covers everything."

A warning he hopes is being heard so cruise ships keep coming here.