General information

Field activities that involve operations in, on and around water environments are inherently high risk.

The hazards associated with water and marine environments can result in injury, death and missing persons.

Marine and water environments are continually changing and can be quite unpredictable. Thorough preparation, contingency planning, knowledge, competence and experience are required to make informed judgements.

Learn more: Water and marine environments guidance book.

The following legislative requirements should be followed when operating University watercraft to ensure the safety of all staff and students.


The University owns a number of vessels/boats that are used in some research and educational programmes. 

Weather conditions

All boating involving vessels under 6 metres shall be
conducted in favourable conditions defined as below:

  • The sea state is 4 or less on the Beaufort scale
  • The wind is forecast to be 15kts or less
  • The swell is 1m or less.

Should the current weather forecast exceed these limits, the skipper should ask for advice before proceeding. Local conditions may allow a safe trip depending on a number of factors that can be discussed with a staff member.

Research projects requiring a vessel to be operated in areas other than from the primary port of Leigh, i.e. Kaipara or other Northland harbours, will have a staff member on board.

For Hawere, the decision on whether to sail will be at the skippers discretion bearing in mind that planning to sail when the forecast includes a gale warning, would have to be defended and explained in the event of damage to vessel or injury to the crew or passengers. There is a difference in planning to proceed from home base as opposed to being caught out on an extended voyage and having to make a decision based on all the variables at the time.

At all times this decision will be made by the skipper in charge of the vessel.

Field activity and project plans

Students going into the field need to submit a field activity plan to be approved ahead of time as well as have a shore contact. This goes for land-based field work as well as boating or snorkelling.

Students need to prepare and submit an overall project plan covering the full scope of the research, research site and safety considerations for each.

Once this has been reviewed and accepted then a trip plan for each actual field trip should be sent listing the details of participants, dates, study sites and emergency lab contacts so management are aware of who is working in the field and have relevant information to hand. This should be a quick process provided there are no major changes and weather conditions are favourable.

If conditions are poor, e.g. weather warnings or wind exceeding 15 knots,  Brady Doak or Boyd Taylor will need to approve field trip work, even if the overall project plan has been approved.


Hawere is a 15m research vessel owned and operated by the University of Auckland.

As a Maritime New Zealand surveyed vessel it requires qualified personnel to run the vessel and is subject to regulation regarding number of people on board and areas of operation.

Hawere provides access to marine and coastal habitats for research projects and field course teaching. All bookings go through Boyd Taylor. The use of the vessel is subject to supervisor approval and there is a daily charge for use. The exact cost will be decided on by Boyd and depends on if this is an internal project, the distance from home port, the number of staff.

He will also consider if the work can be more safely achieved using Hawere instead of a smaller boat and if overnight and overtime are required.

More information about the vessel and her capabilities can be found by contacting Boyd (contact details below) or Brady Doak.

Email Brady Doak:

Vessels 6m or less owned by the University of Auckland Leigh Marine Laboratory – Maritime NZ Requirements

Maritime NZ has authorised the UoA to issue a limited certificate to operate vessels 6m or less under defined conditions and training.

Qualifications required:

  1. NZ coastguard boat master
  2. Current First Aid certificate (in the last 2 years)
  3. Eyesight test (NZ Drivers licence will be testimony).
  4. NZ coastguard Outboard Maintenance course
  5. Current NZ drivers licence
  6. VHF certificate

Theory Training

The coastguard course may be taken through Mahurangi technical institute in Warkworth, the Coastguard in Auckland, or through home study course options. See the websites below for details.

Practical training

  • A minimum of 10 trips experience as crew on the vessel/s, noting that more sea time may be needed.
  • A formal assessment to prove competency in boat handling and seamanship.
  • An assessment of competency in using University vehicles to launch and retrieve the vessel.

Once this is done, the prospective skipper must sign a declaration that they have completed training under part 35 and have read and
understood the MTOP (Marine Transport operator plan) and their responsibilities as skipper.

Boyd Taylor is the approved person (by Maritime NZ) that can then issue a 5 year limited in-house certificate to run these less than 6m vessels as named on the certificate.

Note: The full training manual and log must be completed prior to applying for full sign off by the delegated authority.

The University owns a number of vessels/boats that are used in some research and educational programmes. These can range from kayaks, zodiacs and runabout boats to a dedicated research launch.

The safety of the vessel’s crew, passengers and the marine environment is paramount in all our maritime operations.

Meeting requirements

All University watercraft are considered a commercial operation and must therefore meet the requirements of the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and Maritime Rules administered by Maritime NZ.

This includes our kayak and canoeing operations. It would be considered a commercial operation where staff members or students use such a craft in any University-sanctioned work activity.

Maritime Rule 21 requires all commercial vessels to be entered into the Safe Ship Management Programme which sets out extensive requirements and approvals to be met for the:

  • Design, structure and purpose of the vessel
  • Vessel survey
  • Safe operational plan of the vessel
  • Emergency procedures and safety equipment
  • Skippers and crew qualifications and experience.

This process is quite extensive and comprehensive planning and checking needs to be undertaken prior to starting any maritime operations or purchasing a watercraft.

Skipper qualifications

Maritime NZ has issued a Certificate of Approval to the University for a training framework under Part 35 of the Maritime Act. We can train employees to operate University-owned vessels under a certain length and that meet certain criteria.

The Business and Operations Manager at Leigh Marine Research Centre should be contacted on this and related maritime matters.

Boyd Taylor
Business and Operations Manager
Institute of Marine Science
Phone: +64 9 3737599 ext 83602

School of Environment

The School of Environment has some boats, separately operated from the Institute of Marine Science.

Boat safety documents

These documents have information on the School's boats, including Madame Yak.

For more on water and boat safety at the School of Environment, contact Blair Sowman.

Email Blair: