‘Blue highway’ offers solution to East Coast transport woes

The Maritime Union says there needs to be more regular coastal shipping services to regional ports to ensure supply chain security.

Ongoing problems this year following Cyclone Gabrielle have seen transport links on the east coast of the North Island compromised.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the temporary coastal service between Gisborne and Napier earlier this year was proof of concept for how New Zealand coastal shipping could work for the regions.

Mr Harrison says local producers and other freight users need to make the shift towards the ‘blue highway’ permanently.

“The more coastal shipping services are used, the more frequent and regular services will become.”

He says that it is obvious that due to climate change, extreme weather events are going to mean ongoing disruption to land based transport modes.

“There needs to be forward thinking and a collective shift to a different mix of transport modes, with industry and Government working together, rather than waiting for the next incident.”

Mr Harrison says a large amount of money is poured into land transport, but coastal shipping is not yet fulfilling its potential because it did not receive the same support.

“Coastal shipping is the most environmentally sound option, and relieves the congestion, damage and safety issues on our overburdened roads.”

He says there has been progress with Government funding of private operators in coastal shipping creating new services, but there needed to be a dedicated focus on transforming the coastal shipping sector.

The Maritime Union was calling for changes to the Maritime Transport Act which currently disadvantaged New Zealand domestic shipping, and consideration of the entry of a public shipping operator to give resilience to regional freight connections, he says.

“Coastal shipping provides the resilience that our supply chain needs going forward.”


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