The Maritime Union says the conflict in the Red Sea highlights the need to build up New Zealand crewed and flagged shipping to overcome supply chain disruptions.
Yemen-based Houthi rebels have been attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea as the Gaza conflict threatens to spill into a wider regional conflict in the Middle East.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says New Zealand needs to build its shipping capability to provide a buffer for our transport links.
He says the previous several years saw serious shipping disruption due to the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, and natural disasters such as the flooding in New Zealand regions in 2023.
Mr Harrison says global shipping lines are now changing schedules to avoid the Suez Canal and Red Sea region, creating serious delays and cost hikes.
“New Zealand needs to protect our domestic supply chain through boosting coastal shipping capability with New Zealand flagged ships and New Zealand crews.”
Mr Harrison says New Zealand exporters could work together to charter vessels for international and regional trade with Government support.
Under the previous Government, funding for coastal shipping had resulted in a modest rise in New Zealand flagged vessels, and it was important to keep up the momentum, he says.
Mr Harrison says New Zealand should be strongly pressing for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, which was the underlying political issue behind the Red Sea situation.
The recent Red Sea attacks by the Houthis have been aimed at Israel-linked ships in an effort to stop the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
The Maritime Union is supporting a call from the International Transport Workers’ Federation to ensure the safety of seafarers, which requires the rerouting of vessels away from the danger zone.