Snails Force Coral Princess to Skip Ports in New Zealand to Clean Hull

biofouling forces cruise to skip ports
Coral Princess was forced to skip two calls in New Zealand to remove snails from her hull (Princess Cruises)

Published Dec 23, 2022 5:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

An infestation of snails, and not the type considered a dining delicacy, is interrupting a cruise from Australia to New Zealand. Passengers were left puzzled by a sudden announcement that their cruise ship, Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess, “must complete unplanned additional hull cleaning in advance of our calls into New Zealand.”

The 91,600 gross ton cruise ship, which has accommodations for 2,000 passengers, had just departed on a festive two-week cruise which for passengers embarking on December 19 in Brisbane, Australia would include New Zealand for Christmas and a New Year’s eve celebration at sea. However, on the first of three days crossing to New Zealand, they were notified by the captain of changes to their planned itinerary, including canceling scenic cruising of New Zealand’s Milford Sound and a port call the following day at Port Chalmers.

The cruise line issued a follow-up statement saying that on the direction of the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Coral Princess would be undertaking the hull cleaning ahead of her arrival into New Zealand. 

“We are taking proactive measures to remove a species of mollusks not native to the area so that there is no unintended transfer in particularly sensitive areas of New Zealand,” wrote Princess. “While these circumstances are rare, they do occur from time to time… guests will now spend a few extra days at sea before spending Christmas in Christchurch as scheduled.”

The itinerary change means that passengers from Brisbane will be aboard the ship for five days before they reach their first port of call. Some reacted negatively on social media while others recognized the importance of preserving New Zealand’s natural environment.

The Coral Princess continued to the east coast of New Zealand, where it is now sitting nearly 50 miles off Tauranga south of Auckland while the snails are being removed. Passengers posted photos of a dive boat coming alongside and beginning work late on Thursday afternoon. They were reporting that the captain told them the operation could take as long as 24 hours to remove the snails from discharge pipes in the hull of the ship.

The cruise ship returned to service in June after being idle for more than two years during the pause in operations due to the pandemic. 

New Zealand highlights that it has some of the strictest biofouling regulations. Paul Hallett from Biosecurity NZ told the news outlet Stuff.nz that “We know that nearly 90 percent of marine pests arrive in this country on the submerged surfaces of international vessels.” Over the past three years, New Zealand reports that about six percent of vessels scheduled to call in its ports have been required to clean their hulls before entering New Zealand’s waters.