Customs Minister Mika Whaitiri has introduced the Maritime Powers Extension Bill to Parliament.
The stated objectives of the bill are to provide the New Zealand Customs Service with an additional option to disrupt drugs smuggling, and to establish clear jurisdiction over offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
The bill amends the Customs and Excise Act 2018 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to incorporate New Zealand’s rights and obligations under article 108 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and article 17 of the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances into domestic law.
The bill seeks to amend the Customs and Excise Act 2018 to provide a framework for how Customs may stop, board, search, and take necessary enforcement action in international waters. These powers are consistent with Customs’ existing maritime powers in New Zealand’s territorial waters and contiguous zone, but are limited only to situations where:
Customs has reasonable cause to suspect that a drugs smuggling offence has been, is being, or is likely to be committed; and
in the case of foreign ships, the flag state has authorised actions in accordance with the Drug Trafficking Convention.
The bill also amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to establish offences relating to drugs smuggling outside New Zealand. This makes it an offence to be involved in the importation or exportation of controlled drugs or prohibited equipment or material, such as precursor substances, equipment, or materials to be used in producing or manufacturing controlled drugs.
These offences apply in a range of circumstances:
if an individual on a ship in international waters is in control of the controlled drugs or prohibited equipment or material and the individual or another individual intends to import the item into New Zealand:
if an individual on a ship in international waters is involved in other ways in the smuggling of these items into or out of New Zealand.
The penalties for these offences are consistent with importation and exportation offences that currently exist under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.