Port merger must be driven by public interest, not commercial interests

The Maritime Union says that co-operation between ports and regions is vital to the future of the maritime industry and New Zealand.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the proposed merger of Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga needs to be managed as part of a national ports strategy driven by regional co-operation.

He says that the recent coastal shipping report by the Shipping Federation and the announcement of a Government review into casualization of employment showed that good work was being done on the problems faced by the maritime industry.

Mr Hanson says there was an urgent need for a ports strategy that tied in with developments in the maritime industry in order to provide a way forward.

He says to leave the process of port mergers in the hands of purely commercial interests would be a mistake.

“We need to have a thirty year plan for the industry that encompasses ports, coastal shipping and the wider transport chain.”

Mr Hanson says consideration has to be given to regional issues, and the transportation of cargo by coastal shipping, to ensure no individual region is disadvantaged by changes.

The proposed super port may result in an increased move of businesses and workers into the Auckland and Tauranga areas, and this could place serious burdens on the infrastructure of both areas while having negative effects on provincial ports, he says.

“Decisions over the past generation in the ports industry have been parochial and short-sighted, and this has lead to shipping companies playing ports off against one another, resulting in a chaotic industry where workers jobs and conditions are constantly under attack.”

Mr Hanson says the answer is not to create profit driven monopolies but to ensure the long term interests of the public are served.

“Our discussions with leading industry operators lead us to believe that the industry recognizes the need for a more rational approach, but there needs to be clear direction from the Government to get the ball rolling.”

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