Maritime Union calls for New Zealand shipping to resolve supply chain crisis

There needs to be innovative responses to ongoing shipping congestion.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says it is essential that New Zealand develops its own shipping capacity and builds in a level of redundancy and options for exporters and importers and coastal freight.

He says a shortage of global shipping capacity was leading to severe ongoing congestion and delays in New Zealand’s supply chain.

There is no clear picture of when, or if, the situation might resolve, he says.

Mr Harrison says there has been a massive shift in the last year in focus for New Zealand transport with congestion seen as a critical issue.

“Previously, there was an obsession with convenience, speed, just-in-time supply chains. Now that has been completely changed and we are looking at the need for secure and reliable services.”

He says New Zealand made a mistake by relying on unaccountable global shipping companies, who had relegated New Zealand to the bottom of the list, and were now concentrating on more profitable, bigger markets.

“Even ports the size of Sydney are now being affected, with Maersk announcing more service changes recently.”

New Zealand exporters have been looking at chartering their own vessels to ensure access to overseas markets.

Mr Harrison says chartering comes with its own risks, including using low quality Flag of Convenience shipping that could be unsafe and unethical.

He says a fragmented approach will fail, and New Zealand needs quickly upgrade its own international and domestic coastal shipping capacity in a coordinated and coherent way.

There was plenty of opportunity for dedicated New Zealand coastal shipping to ensure regional ports were being serviced in a reliable way, but there needed to be Government and industry support, and immediate changes to laws that disadvantaged local shipping operators.

Mr Harrison says there is also potential for a regional “oceanic bubble” where New Zealand flagged vessels or a nationally-owned shipping operator could provide access to Australia and the Pacific Islands.

“This would give our Pacific neighbours and our exporters confidence that vessels trading these routes are clear of COVID and their priority was New Zealand.”

He says it is essential that New Zealand has resilience and flexibility for its shipping requirements.

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