The navy may not be able to monitor illegal fishing in the
Southern Ocean because its ships are not up to the task.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said a navy patrol of
the Antarctic fishery was cancelled because of concerns about
its offshore patrol vessels' ability to operate in Antarctic
Mr McCully said he was advised by the navy that the mission
to tackle illegal or unreported fishing was not going to be
possible because it was "not within the capabilities of the
Asked whether the navy needed better ships, Mr McCully said:
"We were simply advised they weren't going to be able to
achieve the mission and so they decided to pull it."
The HMNZS Otago had travelled to the Southern Ocean late last
year to patrol the fishery with the support of the air force
Orion, which has monitored the region since the late 1990s.
The 1900-tonne frigate's mission was described by the
Government as a success, with serious fishing infringements
uncovered by its crew.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the crew and the ship
had worked in "the world's most extreme weather".
But a second patrol did not go ahead because of the navy's
The ship was one of seven vessels bought for $500 million as
part of "Project Protector", and was designed to be able to
stay at sea longer and carry out complex operations. The
Government also bought a sister ship, the Wellington, which
was capable of travel to the Antarctic.
The Otago was dogged by problems since its launch in 2006,
and was not delivered to the navy until 2010.
The $90 million vessel was sent back after it was judged as
not up to standard.
The Otago was later strengthened to withstand ice, but the
increase in weight meant that it was unable to sail in
In 2010 it was found to have a leak which allowed seawater to
get into its fuel tank.
Labour Party defence spokesman Phil Goff said he was
"surprised" the navy was not able to carry out the patrol
because the Otago's initial problems had been overcome before
the vessel was sent to New Zealand.
The Defence Force was unable
to confirm yesterday what shortcomings prevented the ships
from making the second patrol.
The Otago and Wellington had strengthened hulls in case they
encountered ice, but did not have icebreaking capabilities
and could not enter ice packs.
It is also understood the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was
concerned the navy could get involved in whaling clashes
between Japanese vessels and the Sea Shepherd conservation
Whaling takes place in the same area in which the Otago was
patrolling fisheries, and officials were concerned that the
vessel could get drawn into the clashes, which have
previously resulted in collisions.