Maritime Transport Act

Section 226 of the Maritime Transport Act states that “harmful substances shall not be discharged or escape, otherwise that in accordance with the marine protection rules, from any ship, offshore installation or pipeline into the sea within the exclusive economic zone or over the continental shelf of New Zealand”.

Part 200 of the Marine Protection Rules requires operators of offshore installations to develop a discharge management plan which must be approved by Maritime New Zealand. The purpose of a discharge management plan is to establish procedures and practices that will minimise environmental impacts from operational or accidental discharges of any harmful substances, including oil.

The Discharge Management Plan must set out:

  • Steps to control operational activities that may harm the marine environment
  • Steps to minimise activities that present a risk of accidental discharge of harmful substances, including oil
  • An emergency response plan that demonstrates that the operator can respond rapidly to minimise the extent and impact of a spill of harmful substances

Part of Plan

Elements for inclusion

In relation to a potential oil spill

  • A risk assessment of the likelihood and consequences of a marine oil spill
  • An inventory of all oils stored or produced at the installation
  • Oil spill trajectory modelling results to indicate the likely fate of spilled oil
  • A description of the surrounding environment highlighting sensitive areas
  • Emergency response procedures to address oil spills in the marine environment

Emergency Response Procedures

  • Ensure the safety of personnel
  • Stop the discharge and prevent further discharges
  • Contain and prevent the spill from entering the sea if possible
  • Notify relevant parties and authorities of the spill
  • Evaluate the extent of the spill and appropriate response options
  • Clean up spilled oil where possible
  • Dispose of waste responsibly
  • Review the plan and restock response equipment

There is no public submission process for the approval of the discharge management plan, which is undertaken in-house. A discharge management plan may be approved for a period of up to three years. This means that a new approval is required at least every three years. Maritime New Zealand generally audits installations annually. Offshore installations must hold a valid International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate which is issued by Maritime New Zealand.

Under the EEZ Act, the EPA is required to take into account “the nature and effect of other marine management regimes” when considering a marine consent application. 2231  This includes those established under the Maritime Transport Act 1994. So although Maritime New Zealand approves discharge management plans, the EPA can take them into account when determining if marine consent should be granted or refused.

Part 21 of the Maritime Transport Act provides for regulation of deliberate disposal into the sea of platforms or other man-made structures. Maritime New Zealand’s position on this matter mirrors Annex II of the London Protocol from which the regulation comes from, which notes a hierarchy of preferred waste management options in increasing order of environmental impact:

  • Re-use
  • Off-site recycling
  • Destruction of hazardous constituents
  • Treatment to reduce or remove the hazardous constituents
  • Disposal on land, into air and in water

Marine disposal is considered the last resort where no other viable option exists, and in the specific circumstances of decommissioning, this implies that all practically recoverable material will be removed. 2232   In 2010, Maritime New Zealand began a process intended to develop a national policy on offshore decommissioning in consultation with the industry. This is still underway.

In 2013 Greenpeace sought judicial review of a decision by the EPA to accept as complete an impact assessment submitted by Anadarko. 2234  Greenpeace alleged that the EPA erred in law as the impact assessment included as an appendix the discharge management plan (required by Maritime New Zealand under the Maritime Transport Act 1994), but did not include its annexes, which included oil spill modelling reports, the emergency response plan, and the oil spill contingency and well control contingency plan. The High Court found that the EPA’s role under section 41 does not involve any assessment of the merits of the content of the impact assessment and is limited to assessing whether the application contains information about the required matters. The application for judicial review was unsuccessful.

  1. EEZ Act 2012, section 59(2)(h).


  3. Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc v The Environmental Protection Authority [2013] NZHC 3482

Last updated at 1:41PM on February 25, 2015