Ferry pro­pels in­dus­try into tough sit­u­a­tion

The Orchardist - - Contents - By Les­ley Wil­son

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.

Aratere in Queen Char­lotte Sound.

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