Manukau Harbour ‘wouldn’t work’ as new Auckland port

Manukau Harbour would never work as a new location for Auckland’s port, transport company director Chris Carr says.Manukau Harbour

Manukau Harbour. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

A report by economic consultancy Sapere published yesterday ranked Manukau Harbour as the best option. It considered Northport, Manukau, the Firth of Thames, the Port of Tauranga and a shared increase in capacity at both Northport and the Port of Tauranga.

An earlier report, backed by New Zealand First, identified Northport at Marsden Point as the best option. The report was completed by a government working group led by former Far North mayor Wayne Brown.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called the previous Northport work ‘shoddy’ and Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it “had a clearly pre-determined outcome” in favour of moving the port to Marsden Point.

New Zealand First still backs Northport as a new location, with MP Shane Jones saying Manukau was the most treacherous harbour in the country and unfit as an alternative site for Ports of Auckland.

Carr and Haslam director Chris Carr said he didn’t know how the Sapere report had come up with Manukau Harbour.

“It’s probably about the only time in the world I’ll ever agree with Shane Jones,” Carr told told Morning Report.

“The prevailing weather comes in on the western side of the country. Ports don’t exist in the west coast of New Zealand, they exist on the east coast.

“I’m no maritime person but all the shipping companies say that they won’t go to the west coast and that in itself would tend to make Manukau the first shipless port that we’d have in the country.

“It’s simply not suitable operationally and it wouldn’t work no matter how much we might try and make it fit.”

If port had to be moved from Auckland it should be to somewhere ships can get in and out safely, he said.

“You also want to go somewhere near the largest consumption area which is the Auckland-Tauranga-Hamilton-Waikato area.

“The only place you can do that is the Firth of Thames. It’s not ideal.”

He agreed with the Sapere report that Ports of Auckland could keep operating for more than 30 years before it ran out of space where it was.

“But New Zealand’s not good at doing this sort of stuff and we take so long to do it that we need to start working at it and looking at it.

“If you look at it from a logistical point of view the decisions become quite easy – it’s when you get politics involved it becomes quite hard.

“The shipping companies who in the end of the day determine where their vessels come would not choose Manukau, ever.”

Shane Jones told Morning Report he had come off second best to people opposed to a relocation to Northland.

“I had professionally and personally campaigned with my leader for the expansion of Northport and relocation of Ports of Auckland activity to Tauranga and Northland,” he said.

He invoked the sinking of the Orpheus in 1863, in which 189 people died, as reason to not build a port at Manukau Harbour.

“I will prophesy that a thousand years will pass before a new port will ever be located in Manukau Harbour.

“[The Sapere report] wants to take us over the bar of the most treacherous harbour in New Zealand and dredge to a level of spill that will rival Mt Cook somewhere in New Zealand or it’ll be dumped in the ocean.”

Jones said work on a new port needed to “get cracking” in 10 to 15 years.

“In New Zealand we leave too many infrastructure decisions to the last minute.”

No decision is to be made before the election, leaving it for political parties to campaign on.

World’s first full scale ammonia engine test – an important step towards carbon free shipping

in International Shipping News,Shipping: Emission Possible 01/07/2020

The technology group Wärtsilä, in close customer cooperation with Knutsen OAS Shipping AS and Repsol, as well as with the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre, will commence the world’s first long term, full-scale, testing of ammonia as a fuel in a marine four-stroke combustion engine. The testing is made possible by a 20 MNOK grant from the Norwegian Research Council through the DEMO 2000 programme.

“This is a great example that illustrates the importance of dedicated petroleum R&D. This DEMO 2000 project is another steppingstone for reaching our ambitious climate targets and it is also aligned with our recently published hydrogen strategy. We need to develop and use new technologies that reduce emissions. We are very happy to support development work that can lead to increased use of ammonia as a fuel in shipping and in the offshore sector. Know-how from this project will also provide important input to the development of regulations for the use of ammonia and other low-carbon fuels”, says Tina Bru, Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy.

Ammonia is promising as a carbon-free fuel for marine applications, in view of the maritime industry’s need to fulfil the International Maritime Organisation’s vision of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50 percent by 2050. Furthermore, ammonia has huge potential for providing green energy to remote power systems, such as offshore installations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

Development work by Wärtsilä, as it prepares for the use of ammonia as a fuel, continues with this testing programme, which will be the world`s first full-scale four-stroke combustion engine test. The project will commence in the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre’s testing facilities at Stord, Norway during the first quarter of 2021.

“We are really excited to further develop and understand the combustion properties of ammonia as a carbon free fuel in one of our multi-fuel engines”, says Egil Hystad, General Manager, Market Innovation at Wärtsilä Marine Business.

“Ammonia storage and supply systems will be designed and developed for maximum personal safety, and in parallel with the Fuel Gas Handling System under development as part of the EU project ShipFC. This project is coordinated by NCE Maritime CleanTech, and it involves an ammonia driven fuel cell which will be tested on the Eidesvik Offshore supply vessel, Viking Energy”, Hystad continues.The project leaders pictured at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre’s test facility at Stord, Norway from left to right: Egil Hystad, Wärtsilä, Willy Wågen, Sustainable Catapult, and Kjell Storelid, Wärtsilä.

The project leaders pictured at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre’s test facility at Stord, Norway from left to right: Egil Hystad, Wärtsilä, Willy Wågen, Sustainable Catapult, and Kjell Storelid, Wärtsilä.

From testing to real operations

Wärtsilä, as part of its development work on future fuels, has studied the use of ammonia as a future carbon-free fuel through the ZEEDS initiative. The company’s first ammonia combustions tests were commenced in Vaasa, Finland, in winter 2020, and will continue with this long-term testing at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre facilities in Stord.

“We are extremely pleased to be part of this project that will prove for the industry the robustness of ammonia as fuel. The project confirms our test facilities’ and Norway’s leading position within the testing and development of solutions for the use of maritime carbon-free fuels”, says Willie Wågen, CEO of Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre. The centre is part of the Norwegian Catapult programme that facilitates a national infrastructure for innovation. The programme is run by SIVA in close cooperation with Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Research Council and financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

The full-scale fuel testing programme can pave the way for ammonia engines to be used in real vessel operations within few years, and several shipowners have shown interest in this possibility. It will also provide important insights into the long-term effect of an ammonia fuelled engine in relation to other systems and components in a vessel, including the required safety measures.

Close cooperation between the government and industry

“A future implementation of ammonia as a carbon free fuel, combined with clean energy production from offshore wind or other renewable energy sources can be the start of a new industrial era for the Norwegian industry”, Egil Hystad points out.

“The Norwegian culture for collaboration and knowledge sharing across different companies and sectors, is a great support in closing big technology gaps. The assistance, cooperation and funding from governmental institutions are essential to drive the change towards a carbon free future”, he continues.
Source: Wärtsilä

Volkswagen launches world’s largest low-emissions LNG car transport ship

Volkswagen isn’t just trying to reduce emissions in its cars.

The automaker has launched the first of two LNG-powered overseas cargo ships that will replace two of the nine heavy oil-burning ships it currently uses on routes between Europe and North America.


The China-made Siem Confucius left Emden, Germany, on Tuesday with 4,800 cars onboard bound for Veracruz, Mexico. According to the automaker, which is still trying to clean up its image in the wake of the “dieselgate” scandal, the 200-meter-long ship reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent, nitrogen oxide by 30 percent, soot by 60 percent and Sulphur oxides by 100 percent compared to the conventional ships. It is the largest vehicle transporter of its size.

VW Group’s “goTozero” program is targeted at reaching carbon neutrality across the company by 2050 and reducing the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of the production and operation of its vehicles by 30 percent compared to 2015 levels.

According to VW, the ships cruise at 16.5 knots (~19 mph) in eco mode and can also run on egas or biogas if necessary. The company currently schedules approximately 7,700 shipments annually around the world and will continue to update its fleet.

Biofouling Survey For Cargo Vessels Arriving In New Zealand

A Biosecurity New Zealand-organised biofouling survey will involve compulsory hull checks for up to 40 arriving cargo vessels.

The ships randomly selected to take part in the survey will be required to undergo a dive inspection and answer questions about biofouling.

The aim is to build a profile of vessels that are most likely to be contaminated with foreign marine species, says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett.

“Biofouling poses a grave biosecurity risk to New Zealand’s marine environment. We know that nearly 90% of marine pests arrive in this country as biofouling on the submerged surfaces of international vessels.

“The survey will pinpoint risk factors that influence the extent of biofouling on a commercial vessel visiting New Zealand. It will put us in a better place to target vessels that require further investigation.”

“We already scrutinise the biofouling history and voyage records from arriving vessels to determine the biosecurity risk. The survey results will allows us to further refine our risk analysis.

“The study will also benefit the shipping industry by providing quicker clearance for vessels that pose negligible risk.”

The survey will involve underwater inspection of vessel hulls and other submerged areas. The vessel operator will also be required to complete a questionnaire on the vessel’s maintenance and movement history.

Biosecurity New Zealand has contracted the Cawthron Institute to undertake the field surveys at a range of ports, starting in August 2020. The project is expected to take up to two years and involve surveying up to 40 vessels.

“We want the survey sample to be as representative of the industry as possible. For this reason, the survey will be compulsory for selected vessels. Biosecurity New Zealand will use powers under the Biosecurity Act to allow this.”

With the introduction of Craft Risk Management Risk Standard for Biofouling in May 2018, New Zealand became the first country in the world to introduce nationwide rules to combat the dangers of biofouling.

© Scoop Media

Government looking behind schedule on road safety targets

The government is being accused by the Opposition of failing to deliver on its road safety targets.No caption

National’s transport spokesperson says the government hasn’t delivered. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The government committed $1.4 billion at the end of 2018 towards a three-year programme to make roads safer – the goal of which was to stop 160 deaths and serious injuries each year.

But so far, according to written parliamentary questions, only $474 million had been spent on the Safe Network Programme by the end of March.

Progress is going well on rumble strips with almost 3,000km being installed out of its 3,500km target by mid-2021.

RNZ reported in July last year that just 16km of median barriers had been installed in a year.

But as of the end of May this year, 18km has been installed out of its 198km target.

Only 151km of side barriers had been built so far out of a target of 322km.

National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said those figures weren’t good enough.

“When you go through all the numbers the government has talked a big game on road safety measures but has simply failed to deliver,” he said.

Spokesperson for road safety charity, Brake, Caroline Perry said the progress was disappointing.

“We’d obviously like to see these measures rolled out as quickly as we can, they are measures that are proven to reduce deaths and injuries on roads and so in order to save lives and improve road safety we need to see more of them in place,” she said.

Perry said Covid-19 would have had an impact on work, but what she really wanted to see now is more barriers being installed and more speed limit changes.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said work will now start to speed up.

“Up until our government put the big focus on road safety and median barriers, it was incredibly difficult for the New Zealand Transport Agency to implement them, but that process has been streamlined and I expect it to really start to ramp up in the next few years,” she said.

Safer speed limits are a key element of the safe network programme, but only 35km of roads have had their limits changed so far.

Genter said that’s because the speed limit changes has been subject to a lot of consultation.

“I expect that with community input those decisions will be made soon,” she said.

When asked if NZTA will meet its targets in 2021, Julie-Anne Genter said saving lives is the most important target and she was confident that will be met.

Auckland’s port seeks consent for deeper channel – POAL

A deeper channel needed to safeguard Auckland’s vital international supply lines

Ports of Auckland has applied to Auckland Council for consent to deepen the city’s shipping channel and a resource consent hearing on the matter will be held next week.

Auckland’s population is forecast to grow significantly, with a million more people expected to live here by 2050. More people means more demand for the products we all buy from overseas, which means more containerised imports and – bigger container ships.

Ports of Auckland must be ready to handle this growth.

The largest container ships calling in Auckland now carry up to 5,000 twenty-foot containers (TEU). Shipping lines want to bring 6-7,000 TEU ships here in the next 2-3 years and in future we will need to host ‘New Panamax’ ships that can carry around 12,000 TEU.

The channel is currently 12.5 metres deep at low tide, but New Panamax ships are 366 metres long with a maximum draft of 15.2 metres. Ports of Auckland is only applying to deepen the channel to 14 metres – so how will the ships get in?

The answer is tidal windows. In common use globally and at other New Zealand ports, a ‘tidal window’ simply means that deeper draft ships enter or leave port when the tide is high enough.

To create a tidal window suitable for New Panamax ships to access port safely we will need a channel which is 14 metres deep on the straights and 14.2 metres deep on the bends. Our berth will be dredged to 15.5 metres so ships can stay through a full tide cycle.

By using tidal windows, we can minimise dredging and reduce cost. It is the most efficient way to accommodate larger container ships.

The dredging will be done by the lowest impact method available – a digger on a barge. The digger will have a long arm to reach down to the seabed to scoop out material. The channel bed is mostly soft material like marine muds, mudstones and some sandstone and gritstone, which can be removed easily. No blasting is required.

Ports of Auckland asked for the consent application to be publicly notified by Auckland Council so that people could have their say on the project. Over two hundred submissions were received.

If consent is granted, work on deepening the channel could start in 2021.

Conservation concerns over Northport proposal

What would shifting much of Auckland’s freight shipping operation do to Whangārei’s harbour? Conservationists say the risks are like throwing dice for the marine ecosystem.

Conservation advocates worry rerouting ships from Ports of Auckland to Whangārei’s Northport might stimulate the local economy but come at a cost to the harbour’s ecosystem.

The proposed shifting of the port is now a bottom line for New Zealand First in any possible future coalition agreement. After announcing his candidacy for the Northland electorate last week Shane Jones told TVNZ’s Q+A: “In the event that we’re back, a bottom line is definitely going to be the relocation of the Ports of Auckland to the north.”

But there’s concern from conservationists and scientists that more ships in Whangārei Harbour would mean more dredging, construction, noise pollution and potential ship strike as well as a change to water flows.

Northport chief executive Jon Moore’s response is that, unlike other ports Northport is accustomed to working with environmental rules and is the only port in the country to be built under the Resource Management Act.

“This means that all of the environmental management requirements of the RMA have been built into the port’s day-to-day operation,” he says.

Build it and they will come

While Northport may have established itself within RMA rules, compared to the Auckland’s waterfront operations it’s small fry. Currently just three ships at a time can tie up at Northport. In Auckland, depending on the size of the ships, there’s space for 11 to 13. 

The number of ship calls per year also shows the gap between what the two ports are handling at present.

In the last financial year 1318 ships called in at Ports of Auckland (POAL). Around 127 were cruise ships and a few were Navy ships, but the majority carried freight.

Northport had 304 ship calls in the same time period. The nearby refinery, which uses its own berth a short distance from Northport, had 218.

To take even some of Auckland’s ships would require a substantial expansion. 

Northport already has a resource consent to extend its 570 metre berth by 270 metres and reclaim 2.8 hectares of land but this small extension won’t come close to providing enough berths to cater for Auckland’s ship traffic.

A video on the Northport website showed potential options for expansion with six ships berthed. If completed in total this would add another 820 metres of berth extending either side of what currently exists and reclaim 25 hectares of land from the harbour. 

Given the current conversations, it’s perplexing there’s no option on Northport’s vision of the future video which shows how much the port might need to expand to cope with its current ships as well as Auckland’s freight ships.

Even to fit the depicted three more ships would mean a big change in a small harbour which conservationists say has some outstanding features. 

Also consented is deepening of the channel into the harbour. This dredging consent for 3.6 million cubic metres of sea floor is held by the oil refinery, not Northport. This is to ensure the channel is deep enough for larger ships. Newsroom understands while the work was consented in 2018 it has not yet begun.

A marine reserve sits just 650 metres from Northport and is home to seahorses, dwarf scorpionfish, octopuses and attracts predatory fish such as kingfish. The harbour also has significant shellfish beds.

There will be dredging

Based on the option shown on the video Northport’s, CEO Moore estimates it would “need to remove 1.14 million cubic metres (not a large amount as far as dredging operations go) to create a consistent depth of 14.5 metres from the western end of the berth to the eastern end” of the berths pictured. 

This is in contrast to what’s said the report of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Working Group published in December 2019. This was not written by Northport. It claimed while Auckland needed dredging to fit larger ships: “No such dredging is required at Northport as Suezmax ships already visit.”

Staff at POAL have estimated the dredging required in Auckland versus dredging which might be required at Northport. The estimation includes the channel dredging at Northport which the oil refinery already has consent for. For POAL the ability to dredge the channel is dependent on resource consent hearings this month.

Estimation by Ports of Auckland of potential dredging required. The 3.7 million cubic metres of channel dredging for Northport is already consented for Refinery NZ to undertake.

Local ocean ecologist Glenn Edney said the amount of dredging potentially needed to cope with Auckland’s ships as well as what is already expected in Northpoint was likely to be unprecedented in the harbour. 

The process would involve dredges suctioning sediment which has settled to the seafloor and placing it onto barges. During the process some can spill out.

“A lot of the dredging is fairly toxic. While it’s in the mud it’s trapped there and it’s relatively harmless. It’s only when it’s suspended in the water or on the surface it becomes a problem and of course that’s what dredging does,” Edney said.

Another effect of dredging is a likely change of water flow in the harbour as areas are deepened. This could affect the water flow around the marine reserve as well as the shellfish beds.

He’s sceptical of the ability of modelling to accurately predict the outcome.

“The environmental impact models will be standard models that will look at water flow and everything. Unfortunately the complexity of a dynamic living system like Whangārei Harbour defy our ability to model really accurately. We’re throwing the dice on the health of those significant shellfish beds.”

As well as water flow changes from dredging, Edney worries about the potential of silt stirred up by ship propellers. Shellfish are known for being filter feeders which can clean water, but they don’t cope well with silt suspended in water.

He said the shellfish are already struggling and there’s a rāhui on collecting them.

There’s a flow-on effect from shellfish abundance which impacts other sea life.

The shellfish attract stingrays to the harbour and females come to the harbour to give birth.

“When the stingrays are born, beautiful, cute little 25 centimetre replicas of the adult, the first thing they do is they go straight down to the sea floor in those shallow harbours and they feed on the young shellfish.”

Orca in front of Marsden Point refinery. Photo; Ingrid N. Visser

It’s a case of pipi starting a food chain. While shellfish are a tasty lunch for stingrays, the stingrays’ oil-filled livers are a tasty treat for orca.

Listed as ‘nationally critical’ by the Department of Conservation, New Zealand’s orca are at the last stop on the threat classification system before extinction. Only 150 to 200 remain.

Marine biologist Ingrid Visser is based in the area. She’s part of the Orca Research Trust and like Edney she sees the ecosystem effects as a stack of cards.

“It’s not just pick-a-species, they’re all interconnected.”

She also worries about the impact of dredging on the harbour as well as noise, pollution and the risk of boat strike.

“We know that the orca, for instance, use it [Whangārei Harbour] for socialising, for mating, for giving birth, for feeding, for sleeping. It’s critical habitat for them. People say ‘they can just go somewhere else’. Well, no. They can’t because there are very few harbours left they can go into.”

Ship strike – marine hit and runs

Another concern is the increased likelihood of ‘ship strikes’. Just like when bugs make an unfortunate connection with a travelling vehicle’s windscreen, sometimes whales and other sea creatures collide with ships. Most of the time, the far larger ships don’t even realise they’ve hit a whale. 

University of Auckland Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine explains that instead of hearing ships only when they’re close, the constant low frequency hum of ships can be heard underwater for many kilometres and the sound doesn’t get a lot louder as ships get close.

There’s a possibility this continual thrum becomes little more than background noise for sea mammals such as the Bryde’s whales she studied in the Hauraki Gulf and they tune the sound out as they go about their normal day of eating plankton.

“Our work showed that on average, just over two whales per year were being killed by ship strike. Those were just the whales that we found. So we knew there were probably more.”

Like orca, Bryde’s whale numbers are limited to the just below extinction point. Two ship strike deaths a year posed an enormous threat to the species, Constantine said.

She has worked on a voluntary protocol with the Hauraki Forum, the shipping industry including Ports of Auckland and the Environmental Defense Society.

By reducing speed to 10 knots in the Hauraki Gulf in areas whales were known to be in, the deaths stopped. Collisions probably still occur, said Constantine, but at 10 knots, they’re not as likely to be lethal. 

Since the voluntary measures were adopted by the shipping industry the last recorded death was in 2014. 

“In my ideal situation of looking at the environmental impact, the voice of the harbour would be at the table. That voice would be saying, ‘there’s too much uncertainty’.”

Constantine hopes any proposal to divert ships to Northport includes work to understand the sea life in the area.

“Before any of this occurs we would need to undertake a really good census of the habitat use in those waters coming into the Northport region to understand the main routes that ships will take into that port and then have a look and assess the risk profile.”

She said she had been involved in aerial surveys in the past up to Whangārei Heads and knows Bryder’s, blue, fin, sei, humpback, pilot and minke whales can be found in the area, as well as several dolphin species.

“It would be such a shame to undo all the hard work that’s been done over the last seven years. There are 15 whales alive today because the ships slowed down.”

Constantine also wonders about the impact of construction efforts on the harbour, saying the importance of the seabed is under-appreciated.

She said there was a difference between a localised, brief, disruption to one which is ongoing, never-ending or regular.

“Is more dredging required? Are they going to be making larger wharves that change the water flow? All these kinds of dynamics that make noise in the water, they result in shifts in sedimentation, destroying the seabed to make the port deeper.”

Vissner acknowledges work by Northport.

“Credit where credit’s due. Northport has been doing due diligence looking at what they can do to mitigate the issues. There’s a difference between mitigation and complete abstinence. We don’t have complete abstinence in the harbour at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should be expanding it either.”

Edney wonders what the conversation would be like if the harbour enjoyed the same legal personhood as the Whanganui river and, through spokespeople, the opinion of the harbour was required to be taken into account.

“In my ideal situation of looking at the environmental impact, the voice of the harbour would be at the table. That voice would be saying, ‘there’s too much uncertainty’.”

Cubic turns 20

20 years ago a new start up company was formed. Cubic Transport Services Ltd started operating in the newly deregulated New Zealand domestic shipping market, shaking up the duopoly that existed, and driving down prices to realistic levels. We soon introduced rail service options over all routes, and added RORO services, and even container sales and leasing.

We are lucky to have great customers and staff. Most of our team have been with us for several years, and some former long time staff have gone on to do really interesting things, sometimes in other industries.

Mike Oates, Rebecca Brown, Jenna Brown, Judy Meharry, Mike Catty and Junior Amituanai all played a part in shaping the company over several years, as did Kalene Sciascia, Andrea Brown and Chrissy Andrews who are still with us, along with newer members of the team – Kayla Kearns and Bianca Sciascia.

20 years ago we had no idea of the changes we would see. Competitors have come and gone, shipping options have grown and keep changing, rail services have improved.

Five years ago we moved to a decentralised remote working business model, meaning we could retain or attract great staff who could incorporate Cubic into their lifestyle. Whether growing their family or moving to a different location they could still work with Cubic.

We have seen many natural disasters, with the Kaikoura earthquake being the most disrupting for supply chains.

And now a once in 100 years pandemic has created a new normal for us all, but has proven that for many companies our remote/decentralised working model actually works really well, and that you CAN actually trust staff, and save them from the daily commuting torture that many people endure.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years throw our way…


Picton and Wellington bear brunt of slow shift to cleaner shipping fuels

Picton residents started voicing their concerns about fumes from Cook Strait ferries in 2018.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFPicton residents started voicing their concerns about fumes from Cook Strait ferries in 2018.

The Ministry of Health has repeated its call for the Government to speed up the country’s move to cleaner shipping fuels, saying the delays come at the “expense of the health of New Zealanders”.

Ministry population health deputy director-general Deborah Woodley called for immediate accession to Annex VI of Marpol, the International Maritime convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, saying Picton and Wellington were bearing the brunt of the delays. 

In her submission to the Environment Select Committee in March, Woodley highlighted the air quality improvement around the Port of Tauranga since international shipping fleets reduced toxic fumes in January this year. 

This was not the case in Picton, which serves a primarily domestic fleet, including the inter-island ferries. 

Smoke coming from an Interislander ferry docked at Picton in 2018.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFSmoke coming from an Interislander ferry docked at Picton in 2018.

Cook Strait ferries were responsible for more port calls in Picton and Wellington than international shipping in all ports around New Zealand, the submission said. 

The Government plans to join Annex VI of Marpol by November 2021, but the Ministry of Health has called for immediate accession, rather than delaying the move “to manage fuel price fluctuations”.

Ministry of Transport environment, emissions and adaptation manager Glen-Marie Burns said before New Zealand could ratify the treaty, they must make changes to domestic legislation.

“We estimated it would take approximately 18 months to align our domestic legislation …”

They advised Cabinet that November 2021 was “the earliest timeframe” that they could accede. 

Annex VI obligations would come into effect three months later.  

More stringent Annex VI regulations took effect globally on January 1, 2020, when the sulphur limit of 3.5 per cent by mass for marine fuels dropped to 0.5 per cent.

All ships ‘flagged’ to Annex VI party states visiting New Zealand had to comply, but domestic ships, including Cook Strait ferries, were not yet bound by the regulations.

A cruise ship sailing past Waikawa Bay bound for Picton in 2019.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFA cruise ship sailing past Waikawa Bay bound for Picton in 2019.

The implementation of Marpol Annex VI abroad had shown up in improved air quality monitoring near the Port of Tauranga, which served a mainly international shipping fleet, Woodley said in her submission.

Air quality monitoring in January 2020 showed a “significant reduction” in concentrations of sulphur dioxide compared with January 2019. 

She understood there had been similar reductions in other international shipping ports around New Zealand.

“However, this is not the case for Picton which serves primarily domestic shipping,” Woodley said. 

There were two main reasons why the Ministry of Health supported New Zealand’s immediate accession to Annex VI, she said. 

“Reduced emissions of harmful air pollutants will result in reduced adverse public health effects and costs, including premature deaths in New Zealand. 

“Accession to Annex VI provides New Zealand with a tangible action to combat climate change.”

The regulation process has been too slow for Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley. 
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFThe regulation process has been too slow for Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley. 

Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley has been publicly calling for New Zealand to join Annex VI since 2018

“It goes without saying that the regulation process has been extraordinarily slow,” he said. 

“The Ministry of Health asked for immediate accession early in 2019 and have repeated that call again this year. Others have lobbied the Ministry of Transport to act since at least 2016,” Yardley said. 

“Is it reasonable to take years implementing rules that are standard virtually everywhere else?” he said. 

“And is it reasonable to ignore the risk to public health in the meantime? I don’t think it is.

“It is abundantly clear that pollution is a serious health risk. Why we can’t sensibly manage pollution, on the other hand, is not so clear.”

New Zealand and Mexico were the only two countries in the OECD not signed up to the agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel.

Mobil have asked the Government to consider deferring accession for five years minimum. 
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFFMobil have asked the Government to consider deferring accession for five years minimum. 

Strait NZ, which owns Bluebridge ferries, said they supported New Zealand’s accession, in particular for reducing the impact on human health and environments in port communities from maritime pollution.

However, Bluebridge outlined their concerns saying the options available to comply were “limited and come with significant costs”.

“This will have flow-on effects for Bluebridge’s commercial freight and passenger customers and, in respect of commercial freight, flow-on effects for the end consumers of those services,” the submission said. 

Bluebridge is one of two companies which ferry passengers and freight across Cook Strait. 
RICKY WILSON/STUFFBluebridge is one of two companies which ferry passengers and freight across Cook Strait. 

Is global political action needed to help shipping go green?

Our planet is facing its greatest challenge, and it’s not coronavirus. Asbjørn Halsebakke, Product Manager, Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch, ponders how greater political action could help the maritime industry meet its most ambitious environmental goals.

Why hasn’t the climate crisis elicited the same urgent response from global governments as the corona pandemic? When confronted with the terrible threat of viral spread, national leaders from Boris Johnson to Narendra Modi, and from Donald Trump to Xi Jingping, have rapidly introduced emergency measures, the like of which we’ve never before imagined, let alone experienced. Huge swathes of the economy have been shut down, public behavior and interaction have been transformed, literally overnight.

The world today is unrecognizable from just a few short weeks ago. There is much to lament about those changes, but also something to applaud in the speed and impact of international response. National leaders, politicians, businesses and consumers have listened to experts, understood the threat and moved to mitigate it in every way possible. Unthinkable policies have been passed without question, with enormous aid packages agreed on, while financial and trade concerns are simply sidelined as we collectively embrace survival mode.

It is, from a detached viewpoint, extraordinarily impressive.

An existential crisis

Let me stress now – I am not downplaying the danger of Covid-19 and have huge sympathy for everyone impacted, in any way, by this crisis.

But it does beg the question, why can’t governments and the international community respond to the issue of climate change with a similar level of commitment? This is the world’s number one emergency – an existential crisis for humanity, threatening our very survival. And it’s not just about the long-term sustainability of society…the impacts now, today, are there for all to see.

For example, The World Health Organization estimates that seven million people die every year due to air pollution. Seven million. The same body reports that between 2030 and 2050 an additional 250,000 deaths will occur each year as a direct result of further global warming, relating to factors such as heat stress and malnutrition. And that’s before we get on to rising sea levels, wildfires, extreme weather and, well, the list goes on.

Our world is dying. And we’re the ones killing it.

And what is the response from those in power?

Compare it, if you can even visualize it, in relation to the current health crisis.

It’s clear, surely, that something needs to be done.

Support our industry!

As the chief engine for global trade and the enabler that allows us to access the resources and wealth of our ocean space, shipping has a key role to play. We need to change our industry if we are to help change the world.

Work is underway. The IMO has set the ambitious, yet crucial, target of reducing GHG emissions by 50% (compared to 2008 levels) by 2050, with the overall aim of eliminating them entirely. This is to be applauded, but it also needs to be supported.

When I speak to shipowners, I usually find them eager to introduce green technology, help reduce emissions and work towards a more sustainable industry. But, quite frankly, they cannot make this transition alone. They need help.

Shipping is a tough and notoriously capital-intensive market. Retrofitting environmentally friendly solutions may not be the first priority when you’re either struggling to stay afloat or edge ahead of the competition in a cut-throat market. At the same time, newbuilding yards generally won’t fit the best environmental solution for a vessel unless the customer presses them – they’ll fit the one that delivers the greatest margin. And who can blame them?

So, the industry requires clear, strategic and impactful assistance to meet its lofty goals. It needs governments and regulators to step in and deliver the policy and instruments that will facilitate the green shift now…because this is a matter that will not wait.

Enabling change

What those measures should be are open to debate. Taxes on vessels with poor environmental performance would encourage the uptake of better solutions, while the income from those taxes could be used to support the development and installation of new technology. Stricter regulations would require compliance, but perhaps the financial burden could be shifted to government – in the same way as they are providing aid right now – with green grants, or access to funding that is reliant on meeting stringent environmental criteria.

Research into green synthetic fuels – a vaccine against pollution – could be fast-tracked and centrally supported, while technology that is already available and proven today, such as batteries and hybrid systems, could be encouraged for immediate efficiency and emissions gains on today’s world fleet.

Newbuilds with future-proof technology, capable of utilizing any fuel source, such as The Switch DC-Hub, could be incentivized for owners, ensuring that they have the capability to meet all future regulations and fuel mixes, for long-term compliance and efficient sailing.

These are relatively modest measures that could translate into huge environmental benefits – for our industry, society and the planet. We just need to get started.

Call to action

The environmental crisis is more abstract than its corona sibling, so it’s harder to imagine the direct individual consequences for each and every one of us. Unfortunately, we may not be able to do that until it’s too late – until we’ve passed the point where our actions can achieve meaningful change.

Despite this short-term crisis, we have to try to not lose sight of our long-term future. And to even have one, we need action from our industry, with the strong support of governments and regulators across the world. That will be the deal breaker.

We can do this if we work together. And, if the corona pandemic has proven anything, it’s shown we are certainly capable of doing that, achieving extraordinary things in remarkably tight timescales.

The biggest challenges require the greatest responses, and there is no bigger threat than climate change. It’s time for those in power to respond. The world demands it.
Source: Yaskawa