Ferry propels industry into tough situation
Since KiwiRail’s Aratere lost its propeller in early November, growers and transport managers have been working hard to secure Cook Strait transport options for this year’s vegetable and fruit crops. While many had freight options booked, the forecast crops do not always match the actual, and the fact that transport peaks for many crops occur over the Christmas break had people scurrying.
Stephen Jeffery of Clutha Packaging Centre, has been working through transport regarding his cherries.
“This issue is serious for us, if we can’t freight our produce we are out of business.”
Stephen says 60% of its crop goes north and while recently one transport company turned them down he is confident there will be other options.
Dean Astill of RD8, notes that most people have tried to pre-book in advance. “As an exporter we are also looking at flying product, mainly to catch the connections for our export product.
“The crop in the South Island is a good balanced crop,’ said Dean, “possibly a few days early. The important thing is that the transport issue was identified early and can be managed.”
Mark Rea of Big Chill, said that while no costs were imposed on producers the loss of the Aratere had caused increased costs to them in the form of increased management, delays in connections and staff making bookings.
It was also noted that the next few weeks would be telling as the stonefruit crop comes on.
“Currently there is a two to three hour delay but this may get far worse in the coming weeks. It’s fingers crossed at the moment.”
Paul Butler of New Zealand Hothouse says that it is a difficult time for everyone concerned but counts himself fortunate that the company has been with Bluebridge. “We have got guaranteed capacity all the way through, it was pre-booked, however we are talking to them with regards to any excess.” KiwiRail has announced that its has found a replacement ferry and that it will be in service by the end of December.
“Chartering the Stena Alegra will ensure that we can better service our freight customers and passengers over the peak summer period and will assist greatly in alleviating our current capacity constraints for freight and passenger vehicles following the loss of one of Aratere’s propellers on November 5,” says Interislander general manager Thomas Davis.
“With our existing timetable we are losing around 45% of our freight and passenger vehicle capacity. The Stena Alegra will recoup about 35%, leaving a net capacity loss of around 10%, assisting us to minimise disruption and restore certainty around future bookings until the Aratere is back in service.”
It appears it is a wait and see situation with a lot of management on the run. Growers and transport operators alike are focused on one goal, get the produce moved when needed. Everyone is working hard to minimise the disruption and maximise returns to growers in what is a very difficult situation.