CASE STUDY: The cost of a lost port

Exporter - - FEATURE: SEA FREIGHT -

Ex­port­ing con­tain­ers of pancakes from New Ply­mouth has be­come so ex­pen­sive in the past year, with the full with­drawal of ship­ping ser­vices, that Van Dyck Fine Foods is look­ing for in­vestors, says co-owner and chief ex­ec­u­tive Mar­cel Nae­nen.

The Port of Taranaki lost calls from reefer ships af­ter big dairy and meat clients took their pro­duce to Tau­ranga and Auck­land ports by rail. Those ships used to go di­rect to Bris­bane and Mel­bourne from New Ply­mouth – which was ideal for Van Dyck Fine Foods.

Coastal ship­ping com­pany Paci­fica Ship­ping filled the gap by call­ing once a week to get the pancakes to other ports for ship­ping over­seas, but that has stopped too.

Nae­nen says ex­porters in the re­gion were un­able to com­mit to the vol­umes Paci­fica re­quired.

Paci­fica Ship­ping’s Chap­man says, “We hung in there in New Ply­mouth from 2008 and the busi­ness was very ro­bust, but our busi­ness model changed when we moved from the Manukau Har­bour to the Waitem­ata.

“That al­tered con­nec­tions for ex­porters and dis­trib­u­tors in Taranaki be­cause of the longer tran­sits via North Cape to the Waitem­ata. We did this to get closer to ex­port ports to widen the range of con­nec­tions [with in­ter­na­tional car­ri­ers] for ex­porters in gen­eral.”

Now the pancakes get to ex­port mar­kets via a much more ex­pen­sive short truck ride, then a rail jour­ney to reach Welling­ton port. Some­times con­tain­ers go by rail to Auck­land and Tau­ranga ports, be­cause Welling­ton has few ser­vices to Asia.

Nae­nen laments truck­ing is slow com­pared with ship­ping. “Rail is a bit cheaper than road, but as a mo­nop­oly how long will that be?”

And equip­ment is not al­ways avail­able or work­ing, such as gen­er­a­tor sets nec­es­sary to con­trol tem­per­a­tures in the 40ft reefers, he says.

“We once had to wait hours for a tech­ni­cian to get a gen set go­ing. The con­tainer had been loaded and when we flicked the switch noth­ing hap­pened. That was scary for us.”

Nae­nen gets con­tain­ers from Taranaki port, which of­fers a clean­ing and stor­age ser­vice, or has emp­ties trucked from Tau­ranga or Auck­land.

“But we switch them on first to see if they cool, then we start load­ing!”

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