Hundreds of Antarctic icebergs floating towards New Zealand are putting ships at risk, according to an Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist.

Large chunks of ice, spotted by satellite photography, have passed the Auckland Islands en-route to the main South Island, about 450km north-east.

Some icebergs measuring more than 200m have also been spotted in one cluster, indicating that even more icebergs could be on the move.

Scientist Neal Young told terradaily the icebergs are the remains of a massive ice floe which split from the Antarctic as sea and air temperatures rise due to global warming.

“All of these have come from a larger one that was probably 30km2 in size when it left Antarctica,” Young said.

New Zealand has already issued coastal navigation warnings for the area in the Southern Ocean where the icebergs have been seen.