May 20, 2024

Withdrawal of proposed service threatens coastal shipping progress

The Maritime Union is concerned coastal shipping progress is stalling after the cancellation of a proposed new shipping service linking regional New Zealand ports.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the cancellation of a proposed MOVE Logistics roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) ship due to technical issues was a step backward for New Zealand coastal shipping.

MOVE Logistics had planned to use a $10 million co-investment from Waka Kotahi to build a new methanol-capable vessel which could service regional New Zealand ports in both islands.

Mr Harrison says New Zealand desperately needs to develop coastal shipping capacity in the regional supply chain.

“New Zealand coastal shipping provides redundancy and resilience in our supply chain in a volatile global environment.”

Mr Harrison said there had been hard lessons about the vulnerability of our transport system in recent years and the importance of the ‘blue highway’ of coastal shipping.

“What happened during COVID was that international shipping disruption put our entire supply chain in jeopardy. This could easily happen again with another pandemic or war.”

Another threat was land transport links being disrupted by climate change weather events, such as Cyclone Gabrielle, or earthquakes, both of which had taken out road and rail links.

In both cases, New Zealand coastal shipping offered redundancy in the system and provided an essential role, he says.

Mr Harrison says a narrow focus on roading by the new Government would increase dependency on vulnerable land based motorway links.

“It’s going to be a very expensive exercise to find those motorways out of action if we have not got our coastal shipping capability in place.”

Under the previous Government, former Minister of Transport Michael Wood announced $30 million funding between four New Zealand operators to help each company bring at least one extra coastal vessel into service.

Mr Harrison says as a result of this, several new coastal shipping services were up and running or in the process of coming online. 

However, other services had been lost.

In March 2023 the short lived New Zealand ‘Coastal Connect’ domestic service was pulled after less than a year by Maersk.

New Zealand fuel tankers that connected the Marsden Point refinery with fuel depots in New Zealand ports had been taken off the coast in 2022 following the closure of the refinery by its owner.

“It is essential the current modest growth we have seen in New Zealand coastal shipping does not stall.”

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