Shipping costs: GWRC supports international efforts to reduce pollution from big ships

  • Published Date 14 Feb 2019

The natural attributes of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) are attractive to tourists and commerce alike, but emissions remain after the vessels have headed off into the sunset. 

Therefore Greater Wellington Regional Council is calling on the government to endorse the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) so we can regulate to reduce the pollution coming from ships in Wellington Harbour.

"Pollution from ship emissions is a significant issue that we must address urgently," says Councillor and Chair of GW's Environment Committee Sue Kedgley. "We need to join other nations in reducing the harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which adversely affect the health of populations and our marine environment."

GW's responsibilities include air, water, and discharges to land and the coastal marine area which is why the Council has made a submission to the Ministry of Transport to support New Zealand's accession to Annex VI (attached). In our submission we point out that significant gains could be made in environmental quality if we could regulate to require ships to use more refined fuels and technologies like scrubbing systems to reduce their emissions.

Shipping is largest source of sulphur dioxide in our region. Stack plumes from shipping are clearly visible and extensive on calm days. The number of log ships is increasing and container ship numbers rebounded following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, though not to the same level. Cruise ship frequency has increased significantly. Car carriers and tankers are likely to be about the same however the largest number of vessel movements are the five Cook Strait ferries. The overall increase in the number and size of ships moving on the harbour inevitably leads to greater fuel consumption and more emissions. According to the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ’s report Our air 2018, “the size of the median vessel visiting New Zealand nearly doubled between 2007 and 2013”.  

Marine life

We share our harbour with a number of other species. Replacing heavy fuel oils with higher sulphur levels with lighter, more refined fuels and diesel that are less persistent in the environment in the event of a spill reduces the pollution risk from an incident and the clean-up operation required. 


A national regulation would be more efficient and effective than a resource management plan or processes on a region-by-region basis for discharge resource consents for shipping.

Updated April 28, 2022 at 10:35 AM

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