The owners of ships that damage New Zealand's environment will be liable for claims of up to $24 million under a bill that has passed its first reading in parliament.
The current limit, which applied to the container ship Rena when it fouled Bay of Plenty beaches, is $12.1m.
The Maritime Legislation Bill brings New Zealand under an international convention which doubles the liability limit set in domestic law.
During the first reading debate on Tuesday night Labour said it was preparing to bring New Zealand under the convention in 2008, but it lost the election in that year and the government didn't do anything until now.
The Rena hit Astrolabe reef off Tauranga on October 5 last year, carrying 1368 containers and 1700 tonnes of fuel.
Hundreds of containers tumbled into the sea and oil slicks washed up on beaches, taking months to clear up.
The captain and navigation officer were jailed for seven months. They were freed last week and returned to the Philippines.
Maritime New Zealand and Bay of Plenty businesses are suing the Rena's owner, Greek-based Daina Shipping, for damages.
The bill passed its first reading on a unanimous vote. It won't become law until later this year or early next year, and isn't retrospective so it can't be used for the Rena case.