Bay of Plenty Times

Im­port snarl-up threat to ex­port sea­son — Maersk

Auck­land log-jam caus­ing 10-day wait to un­load set to drag on, says ship firm

- An­drea Fox Business · Oceania News · Supply Chain Management · Industries · Auckland Region · New Zealand · Oceania · Iceland · Tauranga · Auckland Council · Split · Phil Goff · Australia · Brisbane · Singapore · Mxller-Maersk

The im­ports log jam due to ship un­load­ing de­lays at the Port of Auck­land is ex­pected to worsen and un­likely to clear be­fore the sec­ond quar­ter of next year, says Maersk, the world’s big­gest con­tainer ship­ping line.

Maersk also ex­pects New Zealand’s ex­port sea­son to be “chal­leng­ing” be­cause of con­se­quent de­lays in the im­ports-for-ex­ports con­tainer ex­change on ships head­ing back over­seas.

Maersk’s head of Ocea­nia Ex­port Mar­ket, My Therese Blank, said Maersk ships are wait­ing 10 days to be un­loaded at Auck­land’s port.

She ex­pects the cur­rent level of con­ges­tion is­sues to con­tinue at least into the new year.

Even with ships di­vert­ing to other North Is­land ports such as Port of Tau­ranga to avoid Auck­land, most con­tain­ers have to come back to Auck­land for goods dis­tri­bu­tion and are build­ing up in the sup­ply chain along the way. “We see fur­ther chal­lenges in the sup­ply chain.”

Frus­trated im­porters miss­ing out on sales and Christ­mas or­ders have called on ship­ping lines to send more ves­sels but that would not solve the prob­lem, she said. In­com­ing con­tain­ers had to be un­loaded and ex­changed for ex­ports.

New Zealand’s main ex­port port, Tau­ranga, is try­ing to han­dle big vol­umes of un­ex­pected, di­verted im­port ship­ments in its peak ex­port sea­son.

Ship­ping lines have im­posed “Auck­land con­ges­tion charges” of up to US$500 a con­tainer on im­ports. They say this is to cover ex­tra ex­penses in­curred by de­lays, re­dis­tri­bu­tion of car­goes and di­ver­sion sail­ing costs. Im­porters have lit­tle choice but to pass the charges on.

Blank at­trib­uted the prob­lem to a “labour short­age” at Auck­land’s port, New Zealand’s main im­port port and owned by Auck­land Coun­cil. It co­in­cided with a surge in de­mand for im­ported goods from Ki­wis un­able to travel over­seas and with ex­tra money in their pock­ets.

The port has eight con­tainer cranes but is only op­er­at­ing three dur­ing the day and two at night, cit­ing a short­age of steve­dores. It started a ma­jor con­tainer ter­mi­nal au­to­ma­tion project five years ago, the cost of which is be­ing kept se­cret by the port com­pany and the coun­cil for “com­mer­cial rea­sons”.

The com­pany says Covid dis­rupted com­ple­tion of au­to­ma­tion, sched­uled for early this year. It will not now be fully im­ple­mented un­til the end of March. In the mean­time, the port is op­er­at­ing a split ter­mi­nal, part man­ual and part au­to­mated,

I ex­pect POAL (the port com­pany) to take all nec­es­sary ac­tion to ad­dress the is­sues of con­ges­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble. Phil Goff, Mayor of Auck­land

which it says af­fects staffing and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Mean­while, Mar­itime Union Aus­tralia has blasted as “fab­ri­ca­tion” Auck­land port’s state­ment that in­dus­trial ac­tion by its mem­bers is partly to blame for the prob­lem be­cause ships are ar­riv­ing late from across the Tas­man. The union’s as­sis­tant na­tional sec­re­tary War­ren Smith said the ac­tion ceased more than amonth ago.

He blamed in­ter­na­tional ship­ping com­pa­nies for can­celling ser­vices when Covid-19 emerged. They were now im­pos­ing con­ges­tion charges as a re­sult of “their own ac­tions”.

“Ev­ery­one in the sup­ply chain is be­ing told we’re to blame and it’s just lies. Ships are be­ing un­loaded seam­lessly [here],” said Smith.

Blank said her com­pany had not can­celled ser­vices to New Zealand as a re­sult of Covid.

Smith said “lies about us are ped­dled ev­ery day” for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

“Ports of Auck­land is play­ing a po­lit­i­cal game blam­ing Mar­itime Union Aus­tralia for their own in­ef­fi­cien­cies.

Auck­land Mayor Phil Goff told the Her­ald he’d been ad­vised by port chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Gib­son there was an es­ti­mated 12-week back­log at Bris­bane, Syd­ney and Mel­bourne ports which had af­fected ser­vices com­ing to New Zealand.

Goff said he had raised the con­ges­tion is­sue at Auck­land’s port with Gib­son, who re­sponded that there were mul­ti­ple causes af­fect­ing a range of ports around the world, in­clud­ing Syd­ney and Sin­ga­pore.

The causes in­cluded Covid dis­rup­tion to in­ter­na­tional sup­ply chains and the port’s au­to­ma­tion project, in­dus­trial ac­tion in Aus­tralia which by Au­gust had re­sulted in 70 per cent of ships ar­riv­ing late in Auck­land, and the port’s labour is­sue.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the prob­lem that this is caus­ing to con­sumers and busi­nesses. Un­der the Ports Com­pa­nies Act, share­hold­ers can­not in­ter­fere in op­er­a­tion mat­ters but I ex­pect POAL (the port com­pany) to take all nec­es­sary ac­tion to ad­dress the is­sues of con­ges­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

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 ?? Photo / John Bor­ren ?? Mar­itime Union Aus­tralia re­jects claims by Ports of Auck­land that in­dus­trial ac­tion there is de­lay­ing ship­ments across the Tas­man.
Photo / John Bor­ren Mar­itime Union Aus­tralia re­jects claims by Ports of Auck­land that in­dus­trial ac­tion there is de­lay­ing ship­ments across the Tas­man.

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