Saturday, December 4

Commercial and maritime operators await another coastal transport vessel

Please, not another study.

Containers are unloaded at the port of Lyttelton

The containers are unloaded at the port of Lyttelton.
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

That’s the call from coastal transportation advocates who say that the money allocated by the Transportation Agency must continue to get another ship operational immediately.

Thirty million dollars has been set aside for three years for domestic shipping, but it was unclear exactly what it would be spent on and when.

The Maritime Union’s national secretary, Craig Harrison, has long called for the return of national-flagged vessels, which ply routes along the coast.

“So we know that there is a particular company that is quite interested, there could be another, but we know that they are actively looking at it and, if they had the support, they could do it.

“And they are talking about it being only a matter of weeks or months to bring another ship to shore.”

He said that the support required would be a change in the law, to prevent international ships from being able to transport national cargo loads.

Steve Chapman, the former head of Pacifica Shipping, which is the company that runs New Zealand’s only offshore ship, said that was because for years international companies had undermined any chance that local coastal carriers would have a good chance.

“They have an empty space, say, going from Auckland to Tauranga via Lyttleton and they will cut a spot rate that a dedicated shore operator in all likelihood could not compete with.”

However, he said that was changing.

“That ability of them to take cargo and assume part of the tension in the national supply chain dissipates because they can get more money, more income, in other routes.

“I am afraid that the New Zealand trade channel pales into insignificance compared to the two great trade routes outside of Asia … and the New Zealand public is paying for it.”

Harrison also said that international lines would likely prefer just one or two ports of call and make it easier to manage the Covid-19 virus.

“Instead of going through multiple ports, picking up a few containers here and there, I’m sure some of these shipping companies would be very happy to, for example, go to a particular port to pick up all their cargo and then leave.

“And also, the impact of Covid-19, you know, the cleaning boats, they have Covid yes or no … so there is an element of New Zealand protection as well if we can limit the amount of time these boats are jumping. around the ports, so that’s another factor that needs to be taken into account. “

He was encouraged by the confirmation of Waka Kotahi’s investment, and hoped it would translate into action and not just more talk.

“It will unlock the potential of our regional ports and also help the main problem of moving containers from Auckland to the regions where they are needed for exports.

“So there is a win-win for everyone, we just have to move on … for $ 30 million we just hope it’s not another study.”

They both agree that coastal transportation would not seek to replace road or rail, and would have to work in unison with the other modes of transportation.

“Traditionally, it has been the two-legged stool … road, rail and coastal transport has always been ignored. Coastal transport now needs to come and play its role, but it needs the central government policy setting to enable it,” Chapman said.

He said that $ 30 million was a good start, but that he would like to see more investment in the years to come.

“Five to 10 years ago, $ 30 million would have bought you new construction at the 1100-1500 TEU mark. However, the effect of Covid-19 has made charter fees and new shipbuilding abroad they just skyrocket, so $ 30 million wouldn’t give you as much as it would have, maybe even just two years ago. “

Previous studies have highlighted the benefits that an effective coastal shipping route would have for resilience and when it comes to reducing emissions from transportation.

Foreign-flagged ships currently carry around 80 percent of New Zealand’s total coastal container cargo.

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