The Oceania Regatta has become the fifth cruise victim of New Zealand’s biosecurity laws, cancelling two port calls in the country.

Queen Elizabeth, Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Viking Orion and Coral Princess also had to have hull work carried out, thanks to the tough biofouling laws in New Zealand waters.

An Oceania spokesperson told Cruise Passenger: “Due to local regulations to enter New Zealand’s navigational waters, Regatta is required to complete necessary biofouling remediation, resulting in two port stops being cancelled on Regatta’s current voyage. The vessel is currently enroute to Phillip Island (Cowes), her next scheduled port stop, and is due to arrive on 10 January 2023.”

It was revealed today that the New Zealand Cruise Association has held talks with Biosecurity New Zealand to try and find a solution.

NZCA Chief Executive Kevin O’Sullivan told Radio New Zealand: “Nothing in particular has changed, with the exception that there was probably more inspections being carried out this season because of the gap since ships were here last,” he said. “At the end of the day, the cruise lines are losing revenue, they’re incurring the wrath of unhappy passengers… it’s certainly a far from ideal situation.”

Various objects and sea life can get stuck to a ship’s hull.  New Zealand is particularly strict about ensuring vessels clean these off before entering its waters. But this round of ship stoppages has surprised many. The laws were changed some six years ago but the long layoffs during Covid may have left some lines catching up on the work with a shortage of skilled labor slowing the process.

The Coral Princess had to clean its hull just before Christmas, and Viking Orion, which was in the middle of a cruise in New Zealand when it diverted from Wellington on Boxing Day for hull cleaning in Australia.

Queen Elizabeth has had to cancel visits to New Zealand’s Fiordland departing today from Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Viking issued a statement saying: “The Viking Orion arrived in Melbourne, Australia on January 2 (local time) and was admitted to port. The ship has now returned to her planned itinerary and is currently sailing toward Sydney, where she is expected to arrive on January 4 (local time).

“Following the exterior cleaning of a limited amount of standard marine growth (commonly known as marine biofouling or algae) from the ship’s hull—a routine cleaning procedure for nautical vessels—the ship unfortunately missed several ports on this itinerary. As compensation for the impact to their voyage, Viking has provided all guests on board with a voucher valued at 100% of what they paid to Viking that can be used for any future voyage.”

Regent Seven Seas also issued a statement: Seven Seas Explorer is currently sailing a 14-night cruise which guests embarked on December 29, 2022, and are scheduled to disembark in Auckland, New Zealand on January 12, 2023. Due to local regulations to enter New Zealand navigational waters, a cleaning operation of Seven Seas Explorer’s hull is required. The cleaning must be carried out by a company recognised by New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, none of which have been available at ports the ship has recently visited or will visit before its scheduled entry to New Zealand waters.”

 The statement said Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ technical teams arranged for the cleaning operation to be carried out off the coast of Adelaide, and the ship sailed to South Australia.

“All guests on board have been offered compensation, and a number of guests chose to disembark in Adelaide to make their onward travels. We understand and apologise for the inconvenience, frustration, and disappointment this disruption has caused to our valued guests, and we appreciate their continued understanding.

Associate Professor Sophie Leterme told AAP Organic build-up on ship hulls including bacteria, plankton, sea grasses, mussels and barnacles can enable “stowaway” species to reach Australia.

“If they make it to our reefs, they might decimate the environment and cause some serious issues,” she said.

Cruise passengers are not happy.

Mark Kelk wrote to Cruise Passenger: “We were on the Coral Princess  – stuck at sea for 5 days and they gave us 100 dollars on board credit and 1100 dollar in future credit –  so we booked another cruise but but the price of the next cruise had increased 10 fold so they didn’t miss out –  shame on you Princess.”

Kerry Yates wrote: “Was on Carnival cruise in Nov/Dec 22. That went to New Zealand couldn’t dock at Wellington and nothing but endless drama. I understand all countries wanting to protect their waters and marine life, why is New Zealand the only country stopping cruise ships from entering their waters if it’s such a problem? Why is Australia allowing them to dock?”