Fishing crew rights and obligations

Employers recruiting overseas workers to work as crew on fishing vessels in New Zealand waters have certain responsibilities and obligations they must meet.


All employers must:

Manning agents

Employers can use manning agents to recruit crew as long as they comply with the following rules:


Every foreign crew member employed on a fishing vessel must be sponsored by their New Zealand employer.

If an employer breaches their sponsorship obligations, we won’t approve a Request for Approval in Principle to Recruit Foreign Crew of Fishing Vessels again.

If the crew fly into New Zealand

If crew are flying into New Zealand, and not arriving on the vessel they’ll be working on, their New Zealand employer must arrange a representative:

Explaining crew rights and obligations

The New Zealand employer must:

Explaining crew rights and obligations


Managing desertion risks

Employers must have a plan to manage desertion risks when the vessel is in port, which can include:

Crew are allowed to have shore leave. Employers should not prevent crew from having shore leave when making a plan to manage desertion risks.

Letting us know if there are any problems

Employers have to let us know as soon as possible if they have any information that may help us to:

What to do if crew desert ship

If a New Zealand employer knows a crew member has deserted ship, they must:

Formal Notification of Crew Deserter (INZ 1212) PDF 244KB

What to do if crew are missing

If a New Zealand employer notices a crew member is missing, they must let us know as soon as possible and:

Deserters and missing crew

After we’ve been notified that a crew member has deserted or is missing:

Desertion records

New Zealand employers whose names have been added to our desertion records can apply to have the record removed if all of the following apply:

When we make a decision about whether we’ll accept a request to remove a desertion record, we’ll write to the employer with our decision. If we decide not to accept the request, we’ll include the reasons for our decision.

Managing crew complaints

Investigating complaints

Employers must fully:

Employers must explain to crew who have a complaint or concern that they can ask:

Notifying complaints

Employers must notify both MBIE and NZFIG if there are any serious complaints, allegations or investigations about:

For more about Immigration Instructions for Foreign Crew of Fishing Vessels, visit:

WJ Foreign crew of fishing vessels

If MBIE and NZFIG or any other employee representative learns about a complaint, allegation or investigation, it will notify the employer and explain that the employer has the right to carry out their own investigation.

Employment records

Employers must keep accurate, up-to-date records for each individual crew member:

Employers have to supply this information to all crew (or their authorised representative) both when:


Providing information

New Zealand employers must provide employment records to MBIE or any auditors it engages at the start of any audit. The records must be translated into English by an independent translator.

MBIE aims to give 4 weeks’ notice before any scheduled audit. But if an audit or investigation is urgent, employers may have less time than this to provide the information or records. Employers must provide all information or records within the timeframes MBIE or its auditors provides with the request.

If employers don’t provide the records or information in time, they may fail the audit. This can affect the status of current and future Approvals in Principle to Recruit Foreign Crew of Fishing Vessels.

Crew working conditions

Working and living conditions on the vessel

Employers must make sure that working and living conditions for crew on board vessels:

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Crew welfare

The New Zealand employer must make sure crew have access to the following services:

Employment agreements

Employers must make sure crew employment agreements include minimum crew working conditions and comply with New Zealand employment law.

Employers must make sure crew employment agreements include minimum crew working conditions comply with New Zealand employment law.

Crew working conditions

Standard principles for crew employment agreements

Minimum payments

Employers must pay foreign crew:

For more information about the current New Zealand minimum statutory hourly wage, visit:

The minimum wage


Employers may only deduct amounts from crew wages for:

Deductions must be based on actual and reasonable confirmed costs.

Employers can’t make deductions that bring the hourly rate below the New Zealand minimum statutory wage for all hours worked.

If crew want to pay the costs of personal items like cigarettes, phone cards and non-protective clothing from their wages, these are considered wage advances and not deductions.

Payment frequency

Employers must pay crew regularly, either monthly or at every port call. Payment frequency must be set out in crew employment agreements.

If crew have only been paid the minimum hourly wage pay plus $2 per hour, employers must pay them for any hours they worked above the 42 hours a week at least 24 hours before leaving New Zealand.

Paying wages

Employers must provide each crew member with a New Zealand bank account and pay wages into that account, unless the crew member decides they want to be paid in cash.

No employer, manning agent, crew representative, or any other person associated with them, may have access to, or Power of Attorney over, any crew member’s New Zealand bank account.

Crew can only be paid in cash, if they notify their employer in writing in their own language.

If crew choose to be paid in cash, employers must:

Flying out of New Zealand

If crew will be flying out of New Zealand and not leaving with the fishing vessel, the employer must: