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Ponant hits crew visa snag in New Zealand cruise plans

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Ponant Asia Pacific Chairman Sarina Bratton said every crew member is an essential worker
After receiving conditional approval from New Zealand's Ministry of Health in December to operate domestic cruises with its small expedition ship Le Lapérouse, Ponant now urgently seeks another green light.

Immigration New Zealand has granted critical worker visas for 29 officers and engineers, but has denied visas for 61 other crew members, mostly hotel staff, considered ‘non-essential.’

Immigration NZ said the ship should not have sailed from Jakarta for New Zealand before the paperwork had been processed and Le Lapérouse has now gone to Noumea for refuelling.

'Every crew member an essential worker'

Ponant Asia Pacific Chairman Sarina Bratton said every crew member is an essential worker, with set responsibilities for safety management. She said New Zealanders recruited for the season will need safety training. 

She has been in urgent talks with New Zealand authorities over the past few days and on Tuesday issued this statement: ‘Communications from the Immigration Department today will determine what steps, if any, are available to salvage our planned and approved operation in New Zealand this season.’

Le Lapérouse is under charter to New Zealand’s small ship specialist Wild Earth Travel, owned and operated by expedition leaders including its general manager Aaron Russ, co-owner of Heritage Expeditions. The ship, carrying Kiwi passengers only, is scheduled to sail from Auckland on February 8. 

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