The cruise ship industry is defending its safety record in New Zealand waters after 33 incidents, including three deaths.

The incidents, reported to Maritime New Zealand since 2009, include engine failures and blackouts, groundings, near-misses and injuries to passengers and crew, in ports and at sea.

Five incidents occurred in waters around Otago, Southland and Fiordland, and two more near the Snares Islands, south of Stewart Island.

While some were minor, others included the death of a Filipino crew member killed when a gas cylinder exploded on the Emerald Princess at Port Chalmers earlier this year.


The incident, which is still being investigated, was among three deaths involving cruise ship crew in New Zealand ports since 2009.

In 2011, an Indonesian crewman from the Volendam drowned in Lyttelton Harbour after falling from a lifeboat when a corroded wire rope snapped while he worked on it.

And, in 2009, an Australian crewman of Sri Lankan descent died on the Oceanic Discoverer after being crushed by a watertight door during a fire drill at Napier's port.

Both deaths led to investigations by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), which identified failures and recommended improvements.

Despite this, Maritime New Zealand acting director Nigel Clifford said the cruise ship industry remained well-regulated and safe.

The number of cruise ships visits was increasing, but the number of incidents remained largely static, and that trend was expected to continue.

"We cannot eliminate all risks from sea travel, but we do as much as possible to reduce and manage them through international, national and regional planning, co-operation and preparedness," he said. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia managing director Joel Katz also defended the industry, saying cruise ships remained "incredibly safe".

"The cruise industry experiences an extremely low number of operational, safety-related incidents and the introduction of sophisticated and innovative safety technologies has made cruising even safer," he said.


Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said he was impressed by the industry's approach to safety.

"They take it very seriously."