Contraband - NZ Customs

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Arrival season on the coastline

Arrival season on the coastline

Customs role at the border extends well past the areas that most of us see when we are travelling to and from New Zealand. With no land borders and the tenth longest coastline in the world, maritime patrols are essential in work we do to protect New Zealand’s border.

The summer season is the busiest for small craft arriving and departing New Zealand and the first port of call is usually the Bay of Islands.

From early September Customs patrols the waters of the far North and the Bay of Islands welcoming overseas visitors and looking for any suspicious activity on or near the coastline.

Chief Customs Officer, Nick Sparey says the main areas of operation for Customs maritime patrols this season have been between Auckland and Spirits Bay in the far north with the majority of time spent in and around the Bay of Islands. 

This season over 600 yachts and small craft arrived from all over the world and were greeted on arrival by Customs’ patrol boat Hawk IV. A crew of four officers on the Hawk IV interacted with around 175 of the arriving vessels.

“Several craft raised suspicion with the crew of the Hawk IV but the overall result has been good”, says Nick.

“A lot of the arriving vessels are regular visitors to New Zealand and are compliant with the entry requirements.”

Two yachts were spotted together on radar at long range; the movements of the yachts attracted the attention of the Hawk IV crew who approached them at high speed. The Hawk IV crew discovered that one of the yachts had run out of fuel and the other was attempting to tow the stricken yacht into Opua.

“It’s great to see fellow yachties helping one another out, and that there was no sinister behaviour going on.”

The two yachts made it to Opua with the Hawk IV crew maintaining an over watch.

Earlier this year, our crew were also on the lookout for a stolen yacht that had been reported to NZ Police. The Hawk IV and her crew spent a number of days patrolling the coast from Auckland up to the far north of the north island interacting with various yachts and members of the public to gather information about the stolen yacht which was later found by Australian authorities when it turned up in with a broken mast in Sydney.

Customs and other agencies like the Defence Force and Police share each others’ vessels, and cooperate on surveillance missions. These activities are coordinated by the National Maritime Coordinating Centre.

Hawk IV is a 16.5 metre Salthouse Sovereign, which started its service with Customs in 1998. It is the fourth Customs patrol vessel to bear the name Hawk, following the tradition of Customs’ first vessel which entered service in 1881.