WELLINGTON, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Minister of Customs Kris Faafoi on Wednesday welcomed the passing of the Maritime Powers Extension Bill which will help Customs disrupt the supply of drugs to New Zealand and inhibit drug-smuggling in international waters.
At the passing of the third reading in Parliament, Faafoi said there is clear evidence that organized crime groups are attempting to smuggle drugs by sea.
"In recent years there has been an increase in illicit drug shipments detected off our shores, so clearly we needed to broaden Customs' abilities to take enforcement action against drug smuggling," Faafoi said in a statement.
The Maritime Powers Extension Bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to make drug smuggling in international waters an offence under New Zealand law. It also amends the Customs and Excise Act 2018 to allow Customs to board and search ships and take action against individuals suspected of committing these offences.
"This means Customs can enforce its powers into the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and the high seas beyond and disrupt drug smuggling networks early in the supply chain," he said, adding these drugs command a high price in New Zealand which makes the country an attractive market.
Previously, Customs ability was limited to the 12 nautical mile limit and the contiguous zone a further 12 nautical miles beyond that.
"New Zealand has obligations under international conventions to suppress the smuggling of illicit drugs in international waters. This bill goes a long way in helping us meet those obligations," he added.
Budget 2018 invested about 54 million NZ dollars (36 million U.S. dollars) of operating funding over four years to significantly enhance Customs' capabilities across this area. This includes an additional 127 Customs staff, both here and overseas, according to the minister.