The Maritime Union has dismissed comments by global shipping line Maersk about the merger of Port of Lyttelton and Port of Otago.
The two ports announced a planned merger of operations yesterday, subject to approval by the Chamber of Commerce.
Maersk New Zealand managing director Julian Bevis was reported today as saying he had concerns about the “dominance” of the new port structure and how this would affect prices, services and market competition.
Mr Fleetwood says it is hard to take such concerns with a straight face.
“Maersk is a massive operation, the world’s largest shipping and container terminal conglomerate, and they must really be short of things to worry about if this is all they can come up with.”
He says that Maersk’s ongoing global growth through mergers and acquisitions indicated that they had no concerns with any effect on competition by their own operations.
Mr Fleetwood says the goal of any capitalist corporate like Maersk was to dominate the market and reduce their risk and exposure to competition.
“Let’s face it, the reality is that they are the ones dominating the market and threatening competition, not two ports in the South Island of New Zealand.”
Mr Fleetwood says the problem with New Zealand ports was the exact opposite of Mr Bevis’ claims.
“New Zealand ports have long been played off against each other by powerful shipping companies, and even large local corporates such as Fonterra.”
This has resulted in serious disruption to regional ports, which had many negative implications for New Zealand’s economy and social stability.
Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union was cautiously optimistic about the merger between Port of Lyttelton and Port of Otago.
“Obviously it is early days, but ports working together like this could have benefits, as long as it does not lead to any regional ports being undermined.”
He says the Union would like to see ports remain under public ownership, but also come under some form of national co-ordination, a concept which the Union calls “Kiwiport.”
“Ports are not just another business, they are key infrastructure, and the gateway for New Zealand exports and imports. They need to be operated in the national interest.”
The Maritime Union had been active in the Keep Our Port Public campaign in 2006 during an unsuccessful attempt to part-privatize Port of Lyttelton through a deal with global terminal operator Hutchison.