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Source: Maritime Union of New Zealand

The Maritime Union says New Zealand is facing a deepening crisis in our maritime supply chain, which requires bold thinking and speedy action to fix.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the global COVID-19 pandemic exposed pre-existing weaknesses in our logistics sector, and created enormous problems.

He says with a new wave of COVID-19 causing major problems overseas, the outlook is not good.

Global congestion has been complicated for New Zealand due to our over-dependence on global shipping operators, he says.

International shipping services were currently disrupted, some port calls were being missed, freight costs had risen by unprecedented levels, and shippers could get more profits from concentrating on other larger markets.

These issues would continue into next year and beyond, says Mr Harrison.

“A change in our approach is required and the time for change is now.”

Mr Harrison says New Zealand transport policy has been dominated by ‘leave it to the market’ ideology, but the industry was abandoning those failed ideas in favour of more co-ordinated approach that prioritized resilience and reliability.

Chief executive of international shipping consultancy Sea Intelligence Alan Murphy recently told media one “reasonable option” might be the consideration of a state owned New Zealand shipping line to ensure supply chain security.

In another new development, New Zealand logistics operator Mainfreight has been chartering vessels to move cargo internationally, and Managing Director Don Braid has criticised profiteering by global shipping operators.

President of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation Chris Edwards has recently argued New Zealand flagged coastal shipping has to be a “big part of the plan” to solve supply chain problems (NZ Shipping Gazette, 22 May 2021).

Mr Harrison says this convergence of views shows how New Zealand needs to quickly rebuild our shipping capability.

He says New Zealand flagged coastal shipping could assist by ensuring regional ports had a reliable service, which at the moment they lacked.

Coastal shipping could be built on by expanding New Zealand flagged shipping services to Australia and the Pacific.

He says this would require changes to the Maritime Transport Act, which currently provided an unfair advantage to global shipping operators.

“The key issue here is resilience. The threat to our exports and imports is due to being completely reliant on global operators for whom New Zealand is not a priority.”

Mr Harrison says other benefits of New Zealand shipping would include low carbon emissions and security of our supply chain in the event of natural disasters such as flooding or earthquakes, which put land transport out of action.