The top 5 transport stories in 2017

This year saw multiple transport milestones: from the world’s first electronic freight trucks, to fully solar-powered trains, to landmark decisions to ban the sale of purely diesel and petrol-powered cars across the world.

Could this year mark the point when the transport sector truly charts a course for sustainability? Here are the top five transport stories in 2017.

1. End of the road for petrol and diesel cars

In a move that was heralded as a tipping point for the global automotive industry, China in September said it is working on a plan to end the manufacture and sale of fossil-fuel powered cars. The country, which is the world’s largest car market, did not announce a fixed timeline for this goal.

Other countries which made similar commitments this year include the United Kingdom and France, which plan to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and India, which announced a goal to sell only electric cars by 2030. This was a plan that some saw as ambitious, and others as unviable.

Sweden-based, Chinese-owned industry giant Volvo also announced that it will make only electric and hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, becoming the world’s first major car maker to abandon pure internal combustion engine cars.

2. Dockless debates

Traditional models of bicycle-sharing in cities where users can rent a bike from one location and return it at another station have been around for a while, but 2017 was arguably the year of dockless bicycle sharing.

Chinese companies such as Mobike, Ofo, oBike and ReddyGo expanded exponentially, in China and cities worldwide. Ofo for instance placed 100 bikes on the streets of Oxford, UK, and said it plans to have 20 million bikes on the road across 200 cities by the end of this year. Competitor firm Mobike also launched 1,000 bright orange bikes in Manchester. In Australia, China-backed ReddyGo in June brought “thousands” of bikes to Sydney, while oBike debuted in Melbourne.

Many acknowledge the schemes as an effective means of reducing air pollution and traffic congestion—especially in China’s notoriously smoggy cities—but the rapid proliferation of bike-sharing has created a situation where supply vastly exceeds demand, and users have abused the dockless model to indiscriminately dump bikes in public places.

3. Electric overhaul for freight

The company widely regarded as a leader in electric car innovation unveiled the Tesla Semi Truck in November, opening up the potential to electrify the global freight vehicle market.

Available in models with a range of 300 and 500 miles, the trucks will be available for purchase in 2019. Companies such as package delivery firm UPSUS retail giant Walmart, food firm Pepisco have collectively pre-ordered more than 200 models.

4. Here comes the solar train

Australia’s Byron Bay Railroad Company unveiled the world’s first fully electric, solar-powered train in December. The 100-seater train, which plies a three-kilometre round route in the northern New South Wales district, has a 6.5 kilowatt (kW) solar panel array on the train roof, and is fitted with a 77 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery storage system. This is enough storage for between 12 and 15 trips, according to reports.

Brian Flannery, the multimillionaire businessman who funded the solar train, noted that a train plying a longer route would need recharging stations along the way, and added that the technology might be well suited for use in inner city trams.

Meanwhile India, home to Asia’s largest rail network, in July unveiled its first solar powered train. These trains still use diesel to move, but all air conditioning, lighting, and information displays on board are solar powered. Indian Railways estimates that using solar on board the 11,000 trains it operates daily could save the company US$6.31 billion over the next 10 years.

5. Plastic roads

Though not a new technology, the concept of building roads using plastic waste gained mainstream popularity this year. Indonesia, which is among the top five plastic polluting countries in the world, tested out the practice of mixing shredded, melted plastic waste with tar to make more durable, cheaper, and stronger roads this year. The initial test along a 700-metre stretch of road was carried out at a university in Bali, and officials plan to expand the solution to major cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya soon.

Analysts also urged India, where at least 15,000 deaths were caused by potholes in 2016, to make more roads using plastic. Though the Indian government made it mandatory to incorporate waste in highways in 2015, some states have been slow to adopt the practice.

The plastic road movement also caught on the United Kingdom this year, when engineer Toby McCartney and his start-up MacRebur persuaded two English councils to use waste to build their roads in April.

Shanghai port handling capacity breaks record

The annual handling capacity of Shanghai Port surpassed 40 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) on Friday, breaking an existing world record, according to the Shanghai International Port Group.

As one of China’s largest ports, Shanghai Port started container transportation in 1978 with a handling capacity of 7,951 TEUs that year. The port’s throughput exceeded 30 million TEUs in 2011.

In December 2017, Shanghai Yangshan Deep Water Port, the world’s biggest automated container terminal, started trial operations.

The project uses automated handling equipment designed and manufactured in China, as well as a domestically developed automated management system.

It has helped consolidate the port’s standing as the world’s busiest container port and supported Shanghai’s efforts to become a world shipping center.
Source: Xinhua

Railway from Picton to Christchurch closes again after wet start to October

A wet start to October has caused slips to come down on the Main North Line, which is expected to remain closed until the end of the month.

The newly rebuilt railway line from Picton to Christchurch could be closed for the rest of the month after recent rain brought slips down across the tracks.

Hundreds of spectators turned up to watch the first freight train since the November earthquake take the Main North Line on September 15.

The celebration was short lived. Heavy rain closed the track after the one train went through. It reopened 10 days later, but has closed again.

Hundreds turned up to watch the first freight train since the November earthquake take to the track on September 15. The ...



KiwiRail blamed the latest closure on an unusually wet start to October for the Kaikōura region.

Acting chief executive David Gordon said the “unusually heavy rainfall” caused 31 slips in the area, including three major slips onto the railway line and next to State Highway 1.

He said KiwiRail was working to “make repairs and add resilience” ahead of the peak freight period.

“At this stage we expect services to operate on the line again at the end of this month.”

KiwiRail ran two freight trains each weeknight on the line, leaving it clear during the day and over the weekend for additional repairs to the track and SH1.

Gordon said some disruption was always possible with the limited reopening, but the rain created “much greater disruption than we could reasonably predict”.

He said KiwiRail regretted the impact on customers – and that they could not take some of the freight burden away from the Lewis Pass, which is on the alternative highway route while SH1 is repaired.

KiwiRail previously claimed the Main North Line reopening would take 2000 trucks a month of the road, a figure some in the industry disputed.

At the last closure, general group manager network services Todd Moyle said the Main North Line was likely to shut up to 25 days a year, based on its current state.

MetService forecaster Cameron Coutts said Kaikōura had received 84 millimetres of rain so far in October, which was “well above” the month’s average of 57mm.

He said it should be dry and relatively warm before showers returned on Monday and Tuesday. A “settled spell” was expected for the latter half of next week.

“In saying that, we’re still in spring, so it’s still pretty changeable,” Coutts said.

 – Stuff

Cubic resumes inter-island rail service

We have good news and bad news about the resumption of limited rail services.

Cubic has access to a limited number of container slots on one of the two daily trains each way between Picton and Christchurch.  These slots are very expensive in the post-earthquake freight environment, due to scarcity and the need for KiwiRail to recover costs.

Slots on these services are available on a “take or pay” basis.  Meaning a confirmed booking is charged for whether or not the container is presented prior to cut off.

A wait list system is operating but there is no discount or other latitude with wait-listed bookings.

If you want rates for inter-island rail services please email

For an update on Kaikoura earthquake recovery click here to download NZTA’s latest bulletin.


Cargo containers lost at sea are hard to count, track

About 10 days ago, a cargo ship caught in rough swells off the Brazilian coast lost 45 shipping containers.
Video on social media shows fishermen in small boats scavenging for whatever they could find from the containers, some of which apparently burst when they hit the water, according to a BBC report.
Among the loot: air-conditioning units, bicycles, clothing and hospital equipment.
Such incidents, while relatively rare, do happen now and then.
Nearly two years ago, in October 2015, all 33 crew members, along with 391 containers and some trucks and trailers, were lost when the El Faro met Hurricane Joaquin in the Bermuda Triangle.
Two months later, a ship en route from Oakland, Calif., to Seattle lost a dozen 40-foot containers just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge. Most were empty, but some carried Styrofoam insulation and plastic crates that rolled up onto beaches, according to
When millions of Lego pieces lost in a 1997 container-ship incident began washing up on English beaches, the conventional wisdom was that about 10,000 containers a year fall overboard , a figure often cited in reports about such losses over the years.
“It’s an issue that’s really flown under the radar,” said John Kaltenstein, an Arizona-based senior policy analyst with Friends of the Earth. “This is an issue that hasn’t been tracked properly, and I think it’s one of those that could use more scrutiny.”
As container ships continue to grow in size – the Port of Virginia is about to welcome its first vessel able to carry 14,000 containers measured in standard, 20-foot units – it’s hard not to think about the unthinkable.
Six years ago, the World Shipping Council, a Washington-based trade group whose members account for about 80 percent of global ocean-carrier capacity, got on the case.
Beginning with a survey in 2011, the group asked its members – which include major carriers such as Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM – to report the number of containers lost overboard for the preceding three years.
It found that over the total nine-year period covered in its surveys, from 2008 through 2016, an average of 568 containers were lost at sea each year.
That figure, however, doesn’t include catastrophic events, which the council defines as those that claim 50 or more containers. Factor them in, and the average rises to 1,582 a year.
Nearly two-thirds of the containers lost in that time period were linked to catastrophic accidents, the council states. Among them: the complete loss of the MOL Comfort in 2013 in the Indian Ocean, with 4,293 containers, the worst container-ship loss to date; and the grounding of the M/V Rena off New Zealand, when roughly 900 containers were lost.
Last year, ocean carriers moved about 130 million containers packed with cargo, with an estimated value of more than $4 trillion, the council noted, and containers lost overboard represent about one-thousandth of 1 percent of that total.
Maersk Line, the biggest ocean carrier in the world, moved 13.2 million full containers last year, of which 23 were lost overboard, Katherine Mosquera, a spokeswoman, said in an email.
Among an array of things the company is doing to prevent future losses: an “increased focus on route planning, especially in poor weather conditions.”
Kaltenstein said that while he applauds the industry’s efforts to better account for container losses, he has some questions.
Ideally, the statistics provided would offer a fuller picture of what’s going on and where, he said: “What we’re seeing is really composite data,” with no information about the date and location of the losses, the number of containers lost per incident or their contents, or which company was involved, among other things.
Kaltenstein also noted that the World Shipping Council had to extrapolate from its members’ data to get an estimate of the losses from the 20 percent of ocean-carrier capacity the group doesn’t represent, some of which may be operated by carriers that don’t have the same standards as the council’s membership.
Even if its average figure of more than 1,500 containers lost per year is on target, he noted, over the course of a decade that’s still 15,000 containers.
In late February 2004, the Med Taipei, en route to the Port of Los Angeles, lost 24 containers – 15 of them in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary south of San Francisco.
In June 2004, scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found one of them – holding 1,159 steel-belted car tires – resting upside down on the seafloor, at a depth of about 4,200 feet.
Using proceeds from a resulting legal settlement, the marine sanctuary has turned the container into a kind of science experiment, monitoring the impact site to track decomposition rates along with “potential impacts over time of steel containers and contents, as well as the recovery rates of natural habitats in the deep seafloor,” according to the sanctuary’s website.
“Our lost container is really the only shipping container in the world that’s being studied in the deep over time,” said Andrew DeVogelaere, research director for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
He questions the accuracy of the often-quoted figure of 10,000 containers lost a year, but he also wonders whether surveying companies that have an interest in showing lower numbers is the best way of getting to the truth.
“I don’t know that anybody knows what the true number is, but I’m glad that people are working on firming that up,” DeVogelaere said.
He knows this much, though: “When they are lost, they’ll sit on the sea floor for hundreds of years. It’s a big deal.”
He terms lost containers another form of marine debris and says that the impact on organisms and communities in the deep sea is still being identified: “We don’t even know what the names of many of the deep-sea organisms are or their role in the ocean ecosystem.”
Michael McDaniel is a maritime attorney and principal of a Los Angeles-based law firm whose clients have been involved in such disasters as the El Faro, the MOL Comfort and the M/V Rena.
One of the questions commonly raised at his firm is how many lost-container incidents go unreported. Among other reasons, shipping companies want to avoid the regulatory entanglements to which they can lead, he said.
“Some incidents just aren’t reported, you know, especially in some parts of the world,” he said.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer is perhaps the granddaddy of those with a keen interest in lost-container incidents worldwide.
He has tracked them for decades and oversees a global network of beachcombers.
A Seattle-based oceanographer with 50 years of experience, he remembers when thousands of Nike athletic shoes began to wash up on Pacific Northwest beaches about 25 years ago.
“Each Nike shoe has a serial number, and Nike actually cooperated with me, through their marine department, to figure out what ship it came from,” Ebbesmeyer said. “That’s a very unusual thing.”
Typically, when container debris washes up on a beach, there’s no way to identify the source, he said.
Ebbesmeyer takes credit for first throwing out the 10,000 figure decades ago and notes that the World Shipping Council survey results cover a period that began less than 10 years ago.
If there were a way to track the data back to the 1980s and ’90s, he believes his estimate would stand up.
In any case, the larger issue isn’t really the number of containers, he argues, so much as what’s in them and finding a way to hold accountable those responsible for lost goods that end up on shorelines worldwide.
“It’s almost like, if it goes overboard, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Ebbesmeyer said. “We have massive numbers of people cleaning up beaches, but they can’t tell where it comes from.”
A single container can carry 5 million plastic shopping bags, which if lost at sea could itself become a catastrophe, Ebbesmeyer said.
“It’s a very deep and dark topic,” he said. “But I must compliment the industry; they’re doing better and better.”
Source: The Virginian Pilot

Government to allocate $11 billion to new infrastructure

The government has announced it will allocate $11 billion in new capital infrastructure over the next four Budgets, in addition to funds already included in agency baselines – a move welcomed by the transport industry.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce says New Zealand is growing faster than it has for a long time and adding more jobs all over the country: “That’s a great thing, but to keep growing, it’s important we keep investing in the infrastructure that enables that growth.”

Mr Joyce says that the focus will be on the infrastructure that supports growth, with capital investment in Budget 2017 being increased to $4 billion, including $812 million for reinstating State Highway 1 north and south of Kaikoura.

“We are investing hugely in new schools, hospitals, housing, roads, and railways. This investment will extend that run-rate significantly, and include new investment in the justice and defence sectors as well.”

The capital commitment in Budget 2017 will represent the biggest addition to the government’s capital stock in decades. “To put that into context, the net new capital allocated in the last four Budgets was $4.8 billion, of which $4.1 billion was funded through the proceeds of the mixed ownership model programme,” Mr Joyce says.

“In Budget 2016 we were forecasting just $3.6 billion in new capital spend between Budget 17 and Budget 20, compared to $11 billion now, and that’s an additional spend on top of investments already planned by the government,” he explains.

“If you add the government’s budgeted new capital investment together with the investment made through baselines and through the National Land Transport Fund, the total is around $23 billion over the next four years, or an average of nearly $6 billion per year. And we want to extend that further, with greater use of public-private partnerships, and joint ventures between central and local government and private investors.”


Stephen Selwood, CEO of Infrastructure New Zealand, says the further $11 billion in new capital infrastructure is very welcome. “This is a massive increase and the largest capital investment commitment by any government since the 1970s, but it must be said that New Zealand’s growth challenge is the highest it has ever been, and meeting population demands requires the services for a city larger than Nelson to be added every year,” he notes.

“Added to the growth challenge is New Zealand’s historic under-investment in infrastructure. The reality is that it would not be difficult to spend $11 billion in 2017 alone.”

Mr Selwood points out the government’s commitment to the Kaikoura rebuild, along with its $1.5 billion contribution to Auckland’s City Rail Link and a further $1.5 billion on the East-West Link, a billion more on each of Mill Road, the northern busway extension and the northwestern busway, $400 million on Penlink, plus state highway improvements in the regions is enough to consume all $11 billion, “let alone much-needed investment in health, education and housing nationwide,” he adds. “To get full value out of national resources, the government is going to need to use its funding to unlock private investment.”


Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley says the government’s decision to fund $11 billion of new capital infrastructure over and above existing projects is a welcome response to New Zealand’s infrastructure pressures. “With our growing population and expanding economy, the burden on our transport infrastructure is becoming acute. The freight task alone is expected to increase by around 70% over the next 25 years,” he adds.

“While the government’s announcement is a substantial allocation of funding, it is no more than is necessary to catch up on our significant infrastructure deficit. The devil will be in the detail of course, but the transport industry looks forward to Budget Day and more information on where the first $4 billion will be spent.”

Mr Shirley describes the government’s $812 million commitment to rebuild State Highway 1 through Kaikoura as “an absolute necessity” for the long-term viability of freight between Picton and Christchurch. “It is pleasing that the commitment extends to work on making the route more resilient,” he adds.

Earthworks underway for Ruakura inland port

Waikato-Tainui held a blessing ceremony and turned the first soil for the Ruakura inland port on 28 March (L–R): Tania Simpson (TGH director), Tukoroirangi Morgan (Te Arataura member and TGH director), Kiingi Tuheitia (with the ceremonial shovel), Chris Joblin (TGH CEO), Hemi Rau (TGH director) and Rahui Papa (Te Arataura chairman)


Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), the intergenerational investor for Waikato-Tainui, has commenced foundational earthworks for the first stage of its inland port at Ruakura.

After a number of years on the drawing board and in the planning rooms, TGH chief executive Chris Joblin says it is an exciting milestone for the overall 480 ha project on the eastern boundary of Hamilton.

“As a long-term, staged development project likely to span 20–30 years, Ruakura will deliver great benefits for the region’s exporters and importers, as well as opportunities for Waikato-Tainui people, and has the potential to support 6000–12,000 jobs within the precinct once fully built,” Mr Joblin says.

The site was blessed by Kiingi Tuheitia in a tribal ceremony attended by Waikato-Tainui leaders and tribal members on 28 March.


TGH has appointed New Zealand-owned infrastructure company Fulton Hogan as contractor to carry out the initial works covering the first 7 ha of what will eventually be a 31 ha inland port with the capacity to handle around 1 million TEUs (20 foot container equivalents) per year when fully built.

“Foundational earthworks will involve trucking crushed rock into the site to preload the area to be used for the container marshalling yard. It will take around 12 months for the ground to settle before pavement layers, a rail siding, noise wall, screen planting and services can be completed,” Mr Joblin says.

Construction of sediment control structures and widening of site entry points are also underway and are expected to be completed by the middle of May, at which point the contractors will start stripping topsoil in preparation for the importing and placement of preload material from June.


Fulton Hogan Waikato regional manager Kerry Watkins says the company is pleased to be a partner with a project of national significance. “As we move into the initial works, keeping people safe on the roads and on the site is a top priority,” Mr Watkins says.

“We take the health and safety of our people and communities very seriously. Fulton Hogan has a zero harm policy and a commitment to safe public operations. Together with TGH, we will monitor feedback to ensure safe and courteous truck operations on public roads and seek to minimise impacts on neighbours,” he says.

Extra safety measures will include temporary traffic management warning signs, and speed restrictions.


TGH is now in consultation with a range of potential customers and tenants for the inland port and adjoining logistics hub which will provide ‘port neutrality’ between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga.

“The site will have excellent connections to the Main Trunk Line and to the new Waikato Expressway via a full diamond interchange,” Mr Joblin says.

TGH expects to appoint a world-class port operator in mid-2017 following an RFP (request for proposal) process which is currently underway, and plans to commence initial operations at the inland port in the first half of 2019.


Situated around 3 km from the Hamilton CBD, Ruakura will become New Zealand’s largest integrated logistics, commercial and lifestyle development. The core of the development is the 31 ha inland port, which is set for completion in 2020. Adjacent to the inland port will be a 60 ha logistics precinct to accommodate a range of substantial warehouse and distribution businesses.

Beyond this are proposed precincts for light industry, innovation, residential and retail activities, with around 50 ha of green space for amenity, environmental protection and recreation.

For further information, visit

DP World unveils container tracking solution

DP World, a leading enabler of global trade and an integral part of the supply chain, today demonstrated the most advanced container tracking solution developed by a port terminal operator, under the theme of “Where’s My Container?”, at Transport Logistic in Munich.

The enhancement to the current beta version, after feedback from a pilot release, opens the door for users to have greater visibility of their cargo and improves speed-to-shelf opportunities such as improved replenishment forecasts and better inventory allocation.

The container tracking solution represents a major step forward for customers by reducing administration and providing better data quality for their planning and logistics of getting products onto shelves. This solution will be rolled out in a phased manner and initially be made available across DP World’s UK terminals.

“This solution is a natural extension of our mission to add value for our customers and help solve their toughest challenges,” said Ganesh Raj, senior VP and MD, DP World – Europe and Russia.

“Access to visibility of containerised cargo has traditionally been time consuming and challenging; today’s enhanced tool demonstrates how this solution can help our customers plan and manage their supply chain more effectively and in real-time”.

Introduction of a Vehicle Booking System (VBS) to MetroPort Auckland

Port of Tauranga has advised of the introduction of a VBS for their MetroPort Auckland operation as follows:


Please be advised that we remain on target for the introduction of the ContainerChain VBS to MetroPort Auckland, commencing Monday 20 March 2017.
As of this date, it will be a prerequisite to create truck arrival notifications via the ContainerChain booking system prior to the truck arrival at MetroPort Auckland. The VBS will be available for operators to book transactions from Friday 17 March 2017.
Although it will be a prerequisite to create notifications from Monday 20 March, a six-week “zero invoice” period will remain in place to allow customer and operator process to adjust to the system introduction. After this period, commencing Monday 1 May 2017, a base fee of $6.50 + GST will apply to each notification made.
The terms and conditions of entry to MetroPort Auckland for Container Transport Operators are outlined within the MetroPort Carrier Access Arrangements (CAA). It is a requirement for Container Transport Operators to agree with this arrangement prior to enabling access to the ContainerChain booking system.
The CAA document and the ability to acknowledge acceptance of the terms and conditions in this document are available on the ContainerChain web site, and accessible at:
Rates are posted on the Port of Tauranga web site under “Tariff & Terms” and form part of the terms and conditions of entry.
If you have any questions regarding the use of the booking system or the terms and conditions, please contact 0800 MET VBS or ContainerChain NZ on 0800 702 302.