Safety update

August 1996 Avoiding collisions with tuna boats

This safety update is issued to raise awareness of the potential serious risk to safety from tuna boat collisions. It provides safe practice tips for how best to reduce the risks involved and to alert people to the risk to safety associated with tuna boats.

This safety update is for

  • Masters of tuna vessels
  • Masters of all vessels


A recent near-miss incident off Cape Runaway resulted in a tuna boat’s gear being cut by a craft which passed close astern. This highlights the unique nature of tuna boat fishing operations and masters of other vessels are reminded that:

Tuna vessels operate from November to July from 10 miles to 100 miles off the New Zealand Coast.

The largest concentrations of these boats is off the East Cape and in the Bay of Plenty but they can be encountered anywhere around the coast of New Zealand.

Tuna boat gear may be up to 60 miles in length and marked by buoys at quarter-mile intervals.

Individual buoys are not lit, but the extremities of the line are marked by buoys lit with flashing white lights and radio beacons.

Tuna vessels shoot their gear at speeds of up to 8 knots while steaming. During the hours of darkness, they will show red and white masthead lights as well as sidelights, a sternlight and deck working lights at the after end.

Tuna boats may be lifting their gear during the day and also while steaming.

Safe practice tips

Tuna vessels will notify Taupo Maritime Radio/ZLM when they are concentrated near shipping lanes. Taupo Maritime Radio/ZLM will then broadcast a message to all shipping advising the location of these fleets.

All vessels should give tuna vessels, when engaged in fishing, a clearance of at least half a mile and should pass mid-way between the buoys.

Masters of tuna vessels are reminded that many vessels operating on the New Zealand coast will have English as their second language and may not respond immediately to calls on VHF Channel 16.

Masters of all vessels are reminded that their watch-keeping officers must maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate, which include but are not limited to, keeping a 24 hour listening watch on channel 16 and monitoring the radar to detect the location of other vessels. This especially applies in areas where tuna fishing is carried out, so that the situation and the risk of collision can be properly appraised.

All vessels are required, under the Maritime Transport Act, to report close-quarters situations to the Maritime New Zealand immediately so that the Authority can investigate and take measures to prevent recurrence of such accidents and incidents.

Original source content - Boat Notice 141996, August: Avoiding collisions with tuna boats.

Email updates

Get an email notification when a safety update is available online.


Contact us for more help

If you have any questions about this safety bulletin, please contact our Wellington office.


New Zealand (toll free):
0508 225 522

Call Maritime New Zealand now

Tell us what you need help with and remember to include your contact details (email address and phone numbers).