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Private yachts and small craft

This guidance is for all owners, operators and agents of small craft intending to arrive in New Zealand during COVID-19. This includes superyachts and pleasure craft.


Each year Customs works with other government agencies and ports to plan for the summer arrival of small craft into New Zealand. This season generally runs from October to December, with small craft sailing here to avoid the south Pacific cyclone season.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, changes were put in place to update the arrivals process for small craft. This involved wide community consultation. The border at Opua is safely and effectively managed to prevent COVID-19 from entering New Zealand, and Customs is well placed to manage the expected numbers for the 2021/22 season.

All passengers and crew are required to meet the requirements of the Maritime Border Order.  Any costs incurred would likely be at the crew’s expense, including any Managed Isolation Facility charges.

Each person aboard must have:

  • A valid passport, certificate of identity or other travel document
  • A visa (if required). For more information visit www.immigration.govt.nz
  • Evidence of funds of NZ$400 per month, if living on board a yacht
  • An outward ticket (or evidence of sufficient funds to buy an outward ticket) if departing by commercial transport.

Changes to the Maritime Border Order came into effect on Saturday 13 November 2021, reducing the length of isolation required by those arriving through the maritime border from 14 days to 10 days.

Permissions

Foreign registered vessels must have first received an exemption from the Ministry of Health and foreign crew/passengers must have obtained approval from Immigration New Zealand. You should not depart for NZ until these approvals have been granted. 

It is an offence for a foreign vessel to arrive in New Zealand waters without permission. You may be liable to a fine and/or prosecution, and foreign crew on board could be denied entry into New Zealand. A vessel brought into New Zealand in these circumstances is liable for seizure under the Customs and Excise Act 2018. Note that vessels imported into New Zealand are also subject to duty liability.

If you have permission to enter New Zealand, or are a New Zealand vessel returning home, communicate your plans to Customs with as much notice as possible – you can do this by emailing yachts@customs.govt.nz.

Voyage and preparing for arrival

Everyone arriving in New Zealand by sea are required to isolate on board for 10 days, which can include your journey time.  Plan your journey so that as much of your isolation period as possible is completed at sea. You cannot make up isolation time inside New Zealand territorial waters so take your time getting here.

There can be no contact with any other people or places during the 10-day isolation period. If contact with other people or places occurs then the clock is reset and the 10-day isolation period restarts. It is then counted from the time and date on which the contact with the other persons or places has happened. This includes any stops such as Minerva Reef.

Activate your AIS transponder (or other observable satellite tracking system) prior to departure.  Keep it on for the duration of the journey so your movements can be verified. Any deviation in your journey plan will make verification that you have met your isolation requirement more difficult and may require you to complete the 10-days isolation period when you arrive in New Zealand.

Make sure your vessel is properly outfitted and provisioned before undertaking your voyage. In addition to planning your travel time to New Zealand, remember to plan for enough provisions, power, fuel and waste management for your isolation aboard your vessel, which may include time on arrival in New Zealand. 

Certain food items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry are not allowed into New Zealand.  Visit MPI's website for more information about what is required for biosecurity clearance.

Extended Notice of Arrival

You must send us an Extended Notice of Arrival at least 168 hours before, but not more than 1 month prior to arrival in NZ waters.

The form can be downloaded and submitted to: yachts@customs.govt.nz.

Advance Notice of Arrival

The NZCS 340: Advance Notice of Arrival (DOC 284 KB) form will need to be completed and sent to us at least 48 hours before, but not more than 1 month prior to arrival in NZ waters.

The form can be downloaded and submitted to yachts@customs.govt.nz.

When you arrive

Currently, under maritime border restrictions the only authorised port of entry is Opua, in the Bay of Islands.

For pleasure craft 30 metres and over, the place of first arrival will be confirmed by Customs when you submit your Extended Notice of Arrival.

When you arrive in NZ waters, tell us by calling Maritime Radio on 1 of these frequencies:

  • 4125 kHz
  • 6215 kHz
  • VHF Ch16.

On arrival you will be cleared by border and health agencies. You will undergo a health assessment to determine if you can isolate on your vessel.  You will be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. You must wear appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), which can be provided to you.

Isolation and quarantine

All vessel crew/passengers are required to isolate for at least 10 days. This can include your journey time where this can be verified by Customs. You are not permitted to make up isolation time within New Zealand waters (for example by sailing or anchoring coastwise). Once in New Zealand waters you must sail to the ‘port of first arrival’ as directed by Customs.  Currently this is Opua.

The verification process will include checking for a persistent track from the point of departure, no contact with other places, such as Minerva Reef and communication about intentions and any updates to the journey. 

If you arrive in New Zealand having isolated on board with no contact with other people and places on route (subject to verification), you will likely be able to complete the remaining required isolation time on board your vessel.

By way of example, if you arrive into Opua after 7 days of sailing, you will likely be able to complete the remaining 3 days isolation on your vessel as directed by Customs. 

This will be dependent on you being able to isolate on board your vessel safely.  As such, your vessel must have sufficient provisioning (holding tank capacity and supplies) for this period and not require any hull cleaning or fumigation.

Disembarking/onward journey

Once you, any crew and passengers on board have completed the isolation requirement and returned a negative COVID-19 test result you will be able to disembark your vessel and/or continue your journey to your destination port. It may take up to five days to receive your results and you will need to isolate on board until the test results are returned.

Isolation conditions

While isolating on board you must remain on the vessel at all times. You must not come into contact with anyone else (except for example staff from New Zealand government agencies). This includes people on vessels isolating near you, or come ashore (unless required to do so such as for COVID-19 testing or a medical examination), until everyone on the vessel has served out the required isolation period and returned a negative COVID-19 test result. Any breach of these conditions may result in an extension to the isolation requirements.

If you need to go to a managed isolation facility

If you cannot complete your 10 days isolation on board your vessel safely, you will be required to go into a managed isolation facility.

Any bio fouled hulls or vessels requiring fumigation, or insufficient provisioning to isolate on board (for example, no holding tanks), may require crew to go into managed isolation regardless of time left on isolation, as your vessel will become uninhabitable and you will still need to have a COVID-19 test and wait for the result.

If you are required to go to a managed isolation facility you will be responsible for berthing and possibly managed isolation costs. You will be directed to a berth to allow for all people on board to disembark and await the arrival of managed isolation facility transport officials who will instruct you on your movement to the vehicle taking you to managed isolation.

When you are taken to the drop off point you will be handed over to the driver. At this point you must follow all instructions of the driver to ensure you are able to load any luggage and board the vehicle safely. In particular please follow the driver’s instructions relating to loading and handling your luggage, entering and leaving the vehicle, where you are to sit to ensure correct physical distancing and wearing the appropriate protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

If you are required to go to managed isolation you will be given a Welcome Pack when you arrive at the facility.
Visit MIQ's website for more information.

Extension to TIEs

In 2020 under COVID-19 restrictions many vessels were unable to depart New Zealand before the expiration of their TIEs (Temporary Import Entry). The decision was made for Customs to give a blanket extension to all affected by TIEs to stay As of 30 June 2021 a further extension has been given until 30 June 2022.

Other requirements

Before arrival into NZ, you are required to complete:

Note: the Passenger Arrival card is a sample only and cannot be presented to Customs or MPI staff.

If anyone on board has or is suspected of having an infectious disease, you must fly the international Q flag and notify health authorities.

Restricted and prohibited items

You are not allowed to bring some items into NZ, and some require approval to import, including firearms and weapons.

You must declare any firearms when you arrive. NZ Police will take them and stow them safely until you leave NZ.

Infringement Notices

You may receive a $400 fine if you break the law, do not comply with Customs requirements or fail to declare prohibited goods, or items exceeding customs allowances.

Border processing levy

Each person must pay a Border Processing Levy of  NZ$15.79 when they arrive and NZ$2.94 when they leave NZ.

We will send an invoice to the email address you give us on your advance notice of arrival form. You have until the 20th day of the following month to pay. If you pay late, we will charge you:

  • 8% on the remaining amount
  • 2% for every month you don’t pay.

Leaving New Zealand

Departures will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Departing craft need to be aware that once you have departed New Zealand, any return will be subject to the provisions as set out in the Maritime Border Order.

You must leave NZ waters from an authorised port of entry. Currently, under maritime border restrictions the only authorised port of entry is Opua, in the Bay of Islands.

Getting the completed departure forms to us three days before your departure will help avoid processing delays.  We must receive your forms no less than 4 hours before you leave:

If you entered on a temporary import entry, you will also need to complete: Form C4G: Import entry (temporary) yachts and small vessels (PDF 81 KB).

Maritime NZ also require an inspection safety certificate from Yachting NZ (search Safety Inspections), if your craft is registered in NZ.

Ensure you have passports for every person leaving on the craft, and a recent photograph of the craft which can be used for identifying it.

Completed departure forms must be sent to us at least four hours before you leave.

When we have approved your clearance, you must leave immediately and directly, or you risk a fine or prosecution.

The only exceptions are in an emergency, or with our permission. Contact us on immediately:

If the situation isn’t life-threatening, but you still need to pause your journey, you must get our permission first. An officer will tell you what other requirements you must meet.

Taking duty free items out of NZ

You can only load duty-free consumable items when you’re about to depart NZ. The duty-free business or ship’s providore must email us the completed requisition form no more than 12 hours before you leave.

Keep receipts for any duty-free purchases you’re claiming, as we may inspect them.

You can only load duty-free consumable items when you’re about to depart NZ. You can do this through a duty-free business or ships providore, who must email NZCS 325: Requisition for Ships Stores (DOC 147 KB) to us at ships.stores@customs.govt.nz. They must email us no more than 12 hours before you leave.

Keep receipts for any duty-free purchases you’re claiming, as we may inspect them.

Extending your stay, chartering or permanently importing your yacht

Visitors to New Zealand may import a yacht or sailing craft for up to 2 years without paying duty and GST or a financial security provided they meet all of the following criteria:

  • they are a permanent resident of a country other than New Zealand
  • the yacht or sailing craft will not be sold or offered for sale in New Zealand, or destroyed or given away without permission from Customs
  • the yacht or sailing craft will not be used commercially for hire, transport of cargo or carrying passengers.

Note: the qualifying criteria may be extended, on a case by case basis, to craft used for charter, provided the charter work is less than 65 per cent of the vessel’s time in New Zealand.

If the requirements above are not met, we will require a financial security and the yacht or small craft must be exported within 12 months.

If you’re moving to NZ, you may be able to import your craft without paying Customs duty and GST.

Contact us

  • yachts@customs.govt.nz
  • Calling from NZ: 0800 428 786
  • Calling from Australia: 1 800 301 861
  • Calling from overseas: +64 9 927 8036

Further information

Disclaimer

This information is a general guide only. It should not be relied on if specific advice is needed in relation to your particular circumstances. You should either approach the specific NZ government agency concerned or seek independent legal advice.

If you, or your fellow travellers on board, or the craft you will be travelling on require permission to arrive and/or enter NZ you should ensure that you make your application and receive the decision before your departure for NZ. That ensures you won’t need to change plans mid-journey if your application is declined.

Arriving without permission is an offence and comes with strict penalties including prosecution.

The Maritime Border Order does not limit or affect any other border requirements. All other regular border requirements must also be met (such as providing the Advance Notice of Arrival to New Zealand Customs Service).