25 May 2021

Signs of shipping industry recovery but progress to be slow, industry leader says

10:36 am on 25 May 2021

New Zealand's shipping industry is looking forward to a brighter future, but trade experts warn it will not be an overnight fix.

AUCKLAND - MAY 22 2016:May new cars on Captain Cook Wharf in Ports of Auckland.In 2012, New Zealand imported 173,000 motor vehicles, mainly from Japan

There had been concerns over the rising cost of freight and fees for failing to return empty shipping containers on time. Photo: 123RF

The industry has faced more than a year of disruption due to Covid-19, shipping companies miscalculating global demand, industrial action in Australia, congested ports and the Suez Canal blockage among other challenges.

Earlier this year, concerns were raised over the rising cost of freight and fees for failing to return empty shipping containers on time.

New Zealand Port Company chief executive group spokesperson Charles Finny said together it created a perfect storm.

"It's been a very tough year to 18 months in terms of the supply chain," he said.

But the situation had started to improve with more options opening up in New Zealand to move empty containers around the country, Finny said.

"Basically the building blocks are there for a full recovery. I think we just have to be a little bit patient over the next few months and hopefully the international situation will settle.

"But the key thing is to get the containers to the right place around New Zealand and the shipping lines and KiwiRail are doing their very best to do that. But there are still lots of empty containers sitting around New Zealand and there is still a backlog in terms of imports.

"Anyone who's trying to buy consumer goods right now will testify to that, so we're still a few months away. But the situation is improving all the time."

He hoped to see continued government investment in KiwiRail and roading improvements.

"We need to focus on coastal shipping as more of an option as well," Finney said.

"That's happening, but it won't be an overnight solution."

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