5 Mar 2021

Additional shipping containers and routes welcomed by exporters

10:50 am on 5 March 2021

South Island exporters have breathed a sigh of relief after news more empty shipping containers would be making their way to southern ports.

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Photo: AFP

Next weekend the international shipping firm Maersk will begin a new service carting containers away from Ports of Auckland, down to Timaru, Lyttelton, Nelson and Dunedin.

Esther Guy-Meakin from the Meat Industry Association said worries about capacity, and what to do with the perishable stock had been on farmer's minds, so the certainty was a relief.

"It's not uncommon that container relocation occurs, but at this time we're facing additional congestion and further challenges so this move by Maersk will certainly make a difference."

New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said managing exports since the pandemic began had been a daily challenge.

"[We've had] no containers ... to them getting re-routed to unusual places and then delays associated with that and then can they be received into the port and can the ship get unloaded ... everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.

"So additional containers and any additional routes or services, that's all very welcome and will help us a great deal."

Export woes hit winemaker Greystone Wines in Canterbury hard late last year.

Sales and marketing manager Nik Mavromatis said it cost them dearly in the lead up to Christmas and certainty is all that has ever been wanted.

"We couldn't get straight answers out of freight-forwarders on when we could get containers booked, that was quite challenging.

"At least now we're in a better position because we know there's delays, but then no one could give us a straight answer."

He too welcomed the service.

While the outcome was widely applauded for those relying on the containers, the service has come under fire by the Maritime Union, who said coastal shipping should be left to a New Zealand-flagged ship - Pacifica Shipping's MV Moana Chief.

It has capacity to move 1,700 twenty-foot equivalent units, a trip.

Maersk said it planned to move 2,400 units a week.

The supply chain company Kotahi, founded by Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms to ensure trading companies had a smooth run, worked with Maersk on the plan.

Kotahi is responsible for about 30 percent of New Zealand's containerised exports.

Chief executive David Ross would not say if Pacifica Shipping had been involved in conversations to help move the containers, but confirmed Kotahi's strategic partner was Maersk.

"This is just part of an overall shipping network that has to work effectively for the export of cargo, and I can't really say anymore than that."

He said overall it was good news that something was being done to free up capacity for South Island exporters.

Meanwhile the former chief executive of Pacifica Shipping, Steve Chapman, said it was disappointing Maersk was running the coastal route, agreeing with the union it should be done in-house.

He said international operators could do the work for less, and until the playing field was levelled by the government, local operators had no show at competing, nor an incentive to even try.

Pacifica Shipping had since been sold and its owner, The China Navigation Company, has been contacted for comment.

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