Import waiting time reduces, but port’s search for skilled staff continues

Containers are loaded on rail wagons at Ports of Auckland ,where ships have been waiting up to 17 days to berth.
PORTS OF AUCKLAND/SUPPLIEDContainers are loaded on rail wagons at Ports of Auckland ,where ships have been waiting up to 17 days to berth.

New Zealanders are continuing to wait long periods for imported goods but delays at Auckland’s port are reducing, as the country’s biggest import port struggles to clear a massive backlog of freight.

Ships have been sitting in the harbour for over two weeks to unload their cargo, as Ports of Auckland grapples with a shortage of skilled operators and a global surge in demand for freight.

In late November, some shipping lines were waiting up to 17 days, but the port says the waiting time is now down to an average of eight days.

However, the delays are not helping retailers like Tony Gallagher, owner of Auckland flat pack furniture store Sofas and More, who was running out of stock.

‘’If I consolidated it all up, I could get it into six pallets and I can hold more than 70,’’ he said.

He said one shipment he was waiting on would arrive in the harbour next week but would not be unloaded for another 10 days.

Ships have been diverted to other ports to relieve congestion in Auckland.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFFShips have been diverted to other ports to relieve congestion in Auckland.

Most customers were understanding, but it was embarrassing to tell people they might have to wait two to three months, Gallagher said.

‘’In the weekend customers are coming in, they are looking at the showroom and going we’ll have that, and I’m going, I’m sorry I can take your pre-order and you can get it in the New Year and they go, oh no, we need it now and walk it out.’’

The Ministry of Transport has committed to help Ports of Auckland recruit overseas workers, which needs over 50 staff to work as crane operators, straddle operators, lashers and other stevedoring roles.

‘’As many other employers have found, recruitment is proving difficult. The labour market is strong, there is not a large surplus of suitable people looking for work,’’ port spokesman Matt Ball said.

The port had found a crane operator and several skilled straddle drivers within the country.

‘’We hope to have another crane crew in place before Christmas and a second by February next year, but recruitment – and training – will be ongoing for some time.

Chris Edwards, president of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation, said the crux of the problem was the staff shortage, not the port’s current automation project.

Freight forwarders say freight costs have risen up to six times what they were at the start of the year.
SUPPLIEDFreight forwarders say freight costs have risen up to six times what they were at the start of the year.

Lack of staff meant only a few of the port’s cranes could run around the clock and he urged the Government to give the recruitment process priority.

“This is an urgent matter and, given the significant cost to the economy, it’s our view that the New Zealand Government should be assisting in this recruitment, much like the Australian Government is currently trying to do in its primary sector.”

As well as delays, importers were also grappling with much higher freight costs.

Edwards said costs were three to six times higher than a few months ago, and overlaid with surcharges for freight going through Auckland.

”A container from Shanghai to Auckland in January, a 20-foot container, would have cost US$500. That price now is around US$3000. And it’s going to be the same for exporters.”

To find ways around the backlog, ships have been diverted to other ports. Cargo has been diverted to Tauranga, Napier, Timaru and Lyttelton, much of it going back to Auckland by road or rail.

One shipping line announced this week it would divert a vessel to Whangarei, but Edwards said the cost and difficulty of getting 2500 containers back to Auckland in time for Christmas would be high.

Importers have been told to plan for six to eight weeks delay in their supply chain.
IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFFImporters have been told to plan for six to eight weeks delay in their supply chain.

Delays in shipping goods from Asia are expected to continue well into next year, complicated by a looming global shortage of shipping containers and severe congestion in Asian trans-shipping ports.

Demand for space has risen so much that some ships are bypassing New Zealand altogether, a practice known as ”blank sailings,” as they try to make up time.

Mondiale Freight Services has advised its importer customers to book space on ships up to three weeks before sailing, and plan for a six to eight week contingency delay in their supply chain.

Exporters are also struggling. Air freight capacity has nearly halved due to the drop in passenger flights and rates have risen by 35 per cent, forcing them to compete for sea freight.

Simon Beale, chairman of the Council of Cargo Owners, which represents major importers and exporters like Fonterra, said the bigger players who had locked-in contracts were managing, but those buying on the spot market were paying big money.

He said most ships were still visiting New Zealand. ‘’There are a couple of ones that have a couple of blank sailings just to help relieve the situation in Auckland. But things are moving.”

Cargo that missed New Zealand would go to Australia and then make its way back. ”Missing out on a week is better than missing out on six weeks.”

However, as the fruit and meat export season looms early next year, exporters were nervous about a potential mismatch and shortage of cargo containers around the world, Beale said.

”Getting boxes in the right place is the key thing between now and that period of time.”

Kiwirail has also been working to help alleviate the congestion in Auckland, putting on extra trains have between Tauranga and Auckland to help clear Tauranga’s wharves, increasing capacity on its South Island train and adding a train from Auckland to Christchurch each weekend.

Meanwhile, a Government scheme to subsidise carriers of high priority air freight has been extended until March.

Air New Zealand has been allocated an average of 55 flights per week under the scheme, providing it with a government contribution of between $100 million and $145m towards cargo revenue over the next four months.

Cargo flights are now providing about half Air New Zealand’s monthly revenue.

Safety fears over 2700 truck trips from giant container ship in Northland to Auckland

There are safety and congestion fears for the road north of Auckland, after news a container ship diverted to Northland will result in nearly 2700 more truck trips before Christmas.

Whangārei’s Northport has agreed to unload 1340 containers off the ship Constantinos P, after congestion at Ports of Auckland meant they could not be unloaded there in time for Christmas.

The ship, run by ANL Container Lines, was originally scheduled to stop at Auckland’s port on December 5 but congestion relating to the Covid-19 impact globally and a lack of staff meant the date was delayed to December 22.

The diversion of Constantinos P from Ports of Auckland to Northport will result in 2700 extra container truck trips, National Road Carriers says. (File photo)
KIRK HARGREAVES/STUFFThe diversion of Constantinos P from Ports of Auckland to Northport will result in 2700 extra container truck trips, National Road Carriers says. (File photo)

Northport agreed to step-up to help, even though the 261m ship will be the largest berthed at the port and it is not fully equipped to unload it, chief executive Jon Moore said in a statement.

Constantinos P will berth at Northport on Sunday and cargo will be unloaded by mobile crane, ready to be carted by road from Thursday.

Northport has handled container ships before but the 261m Constantinos P will be its largest.
NORTHPORT/SUPPLIEDNorthport has handled container ships before but the 261m Constantinos P will be its largest.

But the plan has raised serious safety concerns for the 140km road between Marsden Point and Auckland, according to National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken.

There will be 2680 extra truck trips on the road due to the ship’s diversion – with trucks having to travel from Auckland to Northport, and then back.

“There is poor roading infrastructure between Auckland and Northport, including two accident black spots at Dome Valley and the Brynderwyns,” he said.

This 2014 crash in the Dome Valley resulted in no injuries, but the road is notorious for crashes. (File photo)
SUPPLIEDThis 2014 crash in the Dome Valley resulted in no injuries, but the road is notorious for crashes. (File photo)

Truck drivers are already at capacity due to the Christmas rush, and they will be interacting with holiday traffic, Aitken said.

“The road is not perfect, and they are going to be sending guys [truck drivers], used to driving metro, on the open road.”

Aitken said there was a lack of alternatives to the road, with the North Auckland rail line currently closed by a $110 million redevelopment.

It is not due to reopen until January 11, although a link to the port’s location at Marsden Point has not been built.

While Northport said coastal shipping was being considered, Aitken did not know what ships would be available to take the containers.

ANL had found a solution to suit themselves, without thinking of the wider consequences, he said, and more work needed to be done to improve the supply chain in the North Island.

Northport has focused on log exports until now, but it wants to have a bigger involvement in the North Island supply chain. (File photo)
NORTHPORT/SUPPLIEDNorthport has focused on log exports until now, but it wants to have a bigger involvement in the North Island supply chain. (File photo)

Moore agreed, saying there was a need for continued central government investment in road, rail and coastal shipping infrastructure.

“While current supply-chain issues impacting the country might be unprecedented, they demonstrate clearly the need for a resilient and geographically-astute Upper North Island Supply Chain strategy that makes best use of the three existing ports.”

ANL has been contacted for comment about the road concerns.

In a statement, the company said it was taking a proactive solution to support retail and the economy.

“We are confident in the capabilities of Northport and glad that we have found this solution with them. Furthermore, we believe Northport will be a suitable alternative gateway for North Island customers.”

Ports of Auckland hiring more staff to help with ‘unprecedented’ demand as ships wait eight days before being processed

About 10 ships could be seen at anchor in the Hauraki Gulf this morning as they wait to be processed by the Ports of Auckland. Photo / Niki Bezzant
About 10 ships could be seen at anchor in the Hauraki Gulf this morning as they wait to be processed by the Ports of Auckland. Photo / Niki Bezzant

Nikki PrestonBy: Nikki Preston

Herald reporter based in HamiltonNikki.Preston@nzme.co.nz

A photo has emerged showing the scale of the backlog of ships waiting to get into Ports of Auckland this morning as unprecedented and unexpected demand sees container ships stuck at sea with goods for an average of eight days.

Up to 11 container ships were anchored in the Hauraki Gulf waiting to be processed at Ports of Auckland at the weekend, but Ports of Auckland general manager of communications Matt Ball said that had now reduced to six.

The ships currently anchored are one bulk carrier, one car ship and four container ships carrying a wide range of goods which could likely include some Christmas presents.

All three upper North Island ports were busy and there were a further five ships at anchor waiting to go into Northport near Whangarei and five waiting to go into Tauranga, Ball said.

Yesterday the biggest container ship to ever berth at Northport, the 261m-long Constantinos P carrying 1340 containers, arrived. Up to 1000 trucks – travelling either at night or during off-peak traffic times – could be needed to move the cargo between Marsden Pt and Auckland from Thursday.

Ports of Auckland had already recruited an additional 15 people to help them process the containers more quickly and hoped to have one extra crane crew in place before Christmas.

“Our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough trained staff to handle the extra demand,” Ball said.

It was also ramping up the use of its robot straddle carriers help move more freight.

Prior to Covid, it was uncommon for Ports of Auckland to have any ships waiting to be unloaded and on the odd occasion when it did there would only be one or two at a time, he said.

“I think the largest queue previously has been when Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs were discovered on board car ships, which resulted in quite large delays to car imports. So this sort of thing only happens in exceptional circumstances, as we have this year with Covid.”

Ball said the delays were not unique just to New Zealand and were happening worldwide.

Demand between Asia and the US had also grown by more than 20 per cent, while New Zealand was facing “unprecedented and unexpected” demand.

The demand was expected to continue into 2021, with more than a month of back orders from manufacturers in China waiting to be shipped.

Last month, the Herald was contacted by a number of frustrated readers who told how they had been waiting for between four to six months for furniture to arrive from overseas as retailers including Freedom blamed impacts from Covid for delays at the ports.

Other retailers have also had to apologise to customers as the delays mean their pre-ordered stock won’t arrive before Christmas.

Explainer: Why can’t we get things to New Zealand?

The spectre of empty shop shelves looms large over the Christmas season due to ongoing international shipping delays to New Zealand.

While people have largely resumed almost-normal life, the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on several manufacturing nations such as Bangladesh, India, China and Guatamala causing issues with product supply.

But fewer ships and choked ports are also preventing goods from being imported and delivered to retailers.

So what are the issues that could result be delaying the arrival of your new couch or appliance?

Industrial action in Australia

Port workers in Australia have taken periodic strike action across key ports over a pay dispute.

While some strikes have been put on hold, new industrial action has been launched in November by tug boat crew.

Shipping channels continue to face a range of challenge getting products into New Zealand.
JOHN BISSET/STUFFShipping channels continue to face a range of challenge getting products into New Zealand.

But the strikes have resulted in ships scrambling to remain on schedule and missing some port visits to make up for lost time.

The tyranny of distance

The disruption at Australian ports has flowed through to New Zealand because many of our shipping services route via Australia. As a result, ships that can’t get into Australia have also bypassed New Zealand.MORE FROM
DEBRIN FOXCROFT • BUSINESS REPORTER

debrin.foxcroft@stuff.co.nz

New Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich described this as “the tyranny of distance” at a time when shipping companies are trying to maximise profits.

Backlog at NZ ports

Goods that do make it to New Zealand often become part of a huge backlog at ports, particularly in the North Island.

Congestion has become so bad that some shipping lines have introduced a surcharge on cargo passing through Ports of Auckland, on top of shipping rates that are sometimes several times higher than usual.

There are a number of reasons for the backlog, including a Covid-19 related delay in a major automation project at the Ports of Auckland and a struggle to get the right staff to man the port’s eight cranes.

Demand for consumer goods has also increased 20 to 25 per cent compared to last year.

As a result, Ports of Auckland has been accused of overloading the Port of Tauranga with vessels there during its peak export season.

Reduced shipping to New Zealand means there is also a shortage of empty shipping containers needed for exporters to get goods out of the country.

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid told RNZ that the domestic freight network was “finite”.

“There’s only a certain number of trucks, trains and coastal shipping containers that you can have. So, what we are asking our customers to do is to order earlier, and have less expectation on quick delivery,” he said.

New Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich says New Zealand suffers from a “tyranny of distance”.
SUPPLIEDNew Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich says New Zealand suffers from a “tyranny of distance”.

Fewer flights

There are still significantly feweraircraft flying in and out of New Zealand than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

International flights out of New Zealand have dropped from about 600 a week to about 120, nearly halving air freight capacity.

This is particularly an issue for perishable goods like strawberries.

Limited production in some manufacturing countries

Production is ramping up in countries such as China, however, some are still struggling with controlling the Covid-19 virus.

Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment manufacturer, is facing another wave of lockdowns this month.

This could cause a shortage of clothing around the world.

But it’s not all bad news. While Bangladesh and other manufacturing nations are still struggling with Covid-19, China has largely bounced back to pre-virus production levels.

‘Warning lights’: Exporters eye on Covid 19 global shipping congestion as outlook dims

All eyes now on Covid-19 shipping disruption impact on New Zealand's exports. Photo / File
All eyes now on Covid-19 shipping disruption impact on New Zealand’s exports. Photo / File

By: Andrea Fox

Herald business writerandrea.fox@nzme.co.nz

“Philosophical” may be the best way to sum up how New Zealand’s biggest export sectors are viewing warnings Covid-19 global shipping disruption will worsen, with Auckland port’s congestion just one of several flashpoints around the world.

Maersk, the world’s biggest container line, has told the Herald import supply chain congestion in the upper North Island is likely to worsen and not ease until the second quarter of next year, and that 10-day ship waits for unloading at Auckland will also make the coming export season “challenging” due to container exchange logistics.

Dairy sector leader Fonterra, the world’s sixth-biggest dairy company by revenue and New Zealand’s biggest company, along with the $9 billion meat export sector and horticulture market sweetheart Zespri, all say they’re watching the situation closely but are prepared.

But one primary industry exporter isn’t so sanguine.

Disruption at ports is “significant” and supply chain issues, now manifesting, were always one of the biggest risks importers and exporters faced from Covid-19, said the commentator, who declined to be named.

The challenges were not fully understood by the public or the Government and would affect not only import product availability, but New Zealand’s export-led recovery.

“It’s a global phenomenon so there’s not much we can do but hang on for the bumpy ride.”

Maersk’s caution comes as shipping industry information forwarded to the Herald from Ports of Auckland in defence of criticism of its congestion issue advises of new Covid-related delays unloading reefer (refrigerated) container ships at major China port Xingang, and Australian ports precincts – mainly Sydney – gridlocked by heavy cargo volumes as the effect of previous industrial action cascades.

Auckland is the country’s main import gateway. This week, with the Christmas sales season closing in, ships were waiting 10 days to be unloaded. Shipping lines have imposed congestion surcharges of up to US$500 ($713.96) per container on importers.

Imports value in the year to end October was $58b, down 10 per cent on the previous period, according to government figures.

Port of Tauranga is the main marine exit for New Zealand’s exports, valued at $60b in the year to October, up 1.2 per cent. Container ships avoiding Auckland have been offloading big volumes of cargo there just as the main export season gets under way.

The dairy export season has started and will continue into January. Still to come are frozen meat exports, fruit, vegetables and, from March, kiwifruit.

A Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said “no alarm bells” about the export season outlook had been sounding, though there were “warning lights”.

“It’s not just an imports issue. It’s everyone trying to avoid Auckland.”

Exporters who usually used Auckland port were turning to Tauranga, dropping containers at Port of Tauranga’s inland South Auckland port Metroport, which was full.

KiwiRail was putting on more trains south from Metroport to Tauranga from next week, she said.

Asked for Tauranga port’s view on the forecast challenge to exporting, she said: “It’s very difficult to forecast anything, there are so many unknowns.”

Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, hopes its shipping contracts will avoid Covid fallout. Photo / File
Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, hopes its shipping contracts will avoid Covid fallout. Photo / File

Fonterra global supply chain director Gordon Carlyle said shipping containers had been in short supply but the farmer-owned company had been able to source what it needed to support exports.

“What we’re seeing is the global manufacturing industry having to work overtime with stronger-than-expected consumer demand. As a result, the freight industry is also working hard to keep up and port strikes in Australia, coupled with local supply chain issues related to constraints at the Port of Auckland, have exacerbated matters.”

Fonterra’s partnership with Maersk and Kotahi, New Zealand’s largest supply chain collaboration, founded by Fonterra and meat company Silver Fern Farms in 2011, had proven “hugely valuable” in managing the shipping disruption, he said.

Fonterra is the world’s biggest exporter of dairy product.

Zespri, with revenue of $3 billion in 2019-2020, said it would continue to use a mix of shipping types next year while working with long-term shipping and port partners. Most kiwifruit is exported through Tauranga port with some exiting via Northport in Northland.

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri hopes to pull off another Covid shipping disruption go-around next year. Photo / File
Kiwifruit exporter Zespri hopes to pull off another Covid shipping disruption go-around next year. Photo / File

Chief global supply officer Alastair Hulbert said the 2020 season shipping programme had been completed successfully through a mix of container and reefer vessels.

“…We are well placed to commence shipping our fruit to markets next March and to manage any impacts should they arise.”

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said container supply had been an issue for the sector in recent years “however as New Zealand’s second-largest goods exporter we have the experience and expertise to manage the situation”.

“Although we anticipate the situation worsening next year, the agility and resilience our companies have shown throughout the Covid-19 crisis means we are well-placed to mitigate any risks to our supply chains.

“We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure we are prepared in the event of any deterioration.”

Product values of NZ exports in 2019:

• Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.7 billion (27.9% of total exports)
• Meat: US$5.3 billion (13.9%)
• Wood: $3.3 billion (8.7%)
• Fruits, nuts: $2.2 billion (5.9%)
• Cereal/milk preparations: $1.5 billion (3.9%)
• Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (3.7%)
• Fish: $1.2 billion (3.2%)
• Machinery including computers: $1 billion (2.6%)
• Miscellaneous food preparations: $886.9 million (2.3%)
• Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $815.5 million (2.1%)
• New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for about three-quarters (74.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Christmas crunch coming for retailers as ports experience massive backlogs

(GETTY IMAGES)

Critical capacity issues at ports around New Zealand are making retailers worried that they won’t be able to import stock ahead of the Christmas rush. Alex Braae reports. 

Traffic jams of container ships are building up around Auckland’s port, and retailers are concerned they won’t get imported stock in time to sell it for Christmas. 

The issues causing the delay are a perfect storm, including Covid-19, an automation project that had to be halted partway through due to lockdown, and a massive backlog in demand which shows no signs of abating. Many retailers held off on ordering new stock during lockdown because of uncertain conditions, but then retail boomed immediately after the restrictions were lifted. 

Simon Sheterline, the director of mattress retailer Winkl, said getting space on shipping lines out of China is at a premium right now, pushing prices up. But the congestion at the ports is also making him worried that his mattresses won’t arrive in time for “the most important part of the year” for sales. 

“Boats are currently sitting off Whangapāraoa with containers on them, waiting to get through Auckland Port.” Sheterline said there are rumours currently circulating in the furniture import industry that boats might get turned back to China, “because the boats need to be utilised, and can’t be sitting in New Zealand waters for a long period of time.” 

There’s no clear way for stock to be redirected, said Sheterline. “All of our stock is currently tied up on those boats sitting off Whangapāraoa, so we’re just fingers crossed that the boat doesn’t decide to go back to China because it can’t unload.” 

“But at the same time we’re being told there’s no way to redirect our stock through any other ports around the country, because Tauranga and Christchurch are refusing to take bookings on ships direct to those ports until after Christmas, because they’re also congested. 

“So it’s really leaving us in a position where if that stock does go back to China, we won’t be able to book another boat to bring it back, and we won’t be able to airfreight it, because there’s no space on airfreight at the moment.” 

Ports of Auckland head of communications Matt Ball poured cold water on the idea that ships would be turned around, but conceded that many vessels are sitting at anchor for much longer at the moment than they normally would be. 

“We have had ships that have been at anchor for up to six days, maybe in a couple of days longer than that, but no, not turning back to China, I haven’t heard that.” He said that length of time was “highly unusual”, but other ports were also seeing ships sitting and waiting offshore. 

Ports of Auckland was part of the way through rolling out an automation process when Covid hit, and work on it had to stop. The development had been planned to coincide with the quietest part of the year, but that fell right in the middle of lockdown. The terminal is now split in half, with one half running automated systems, and the other manual.

“We had deliberately chosen the quietest time of year to do that switch, so we could really test things out, so that if something went wrong we could use the manual part of the terminal,” said Ball.  

“By the time we got everything going again, levels of imports had picked up again, and we were under the hammer. So that meant we’re actually going to be running with a split terminal for much longer than we initially hoped.” 

The two-terminal setup is just one of the issues slowing down the port right now. New processes around staff safety relating to Covid have also cut into work hours. The port is currently looking to hire dozens of new stevedores to increase capacity. 

And shipping is more generally an industry that is always subject to forced changes in plans. That can be as simple as the weather playing havoc with schedules. Ball estimated that in a normal year, about half of all ships would arrive in port late, but this year various factors in the global supply chain meant it was more like 70%. 

In terms of New Zealand’s overall capacity, Auckland doesn’t currently have the ability to manage delayed schedules like it normally would. 

“In past years, ships have come in here, dropped everything that they’re meant to be taking to Lyttelton for example, then leave it here for another ship to pick up, and they’d be able to leave early and catch up on their schedule. This year they haven’t been able to do it.”  

Rosemarie Dawson, CEO of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation, said the problems are global, and that limitations would be at a critical level for the rest of the year.

“There has been a worldwide surge in consumer demand. Shipping companies did not anticipate this and significantly restricted capacity due to the fall in demand when China effectively shut down due to Covid-19. Lines are now at capacity, so it is very difficult to get space on ships coming out of China.”

Simon Sheterline said he understands how difficult and disrupted the situation is right now, and that the ports have ended up under the pump. “But the communication is not there. The only communication you get as a business owner is that your shipment has been delayed, and then the ports will give you a time for its release, and then they’re pushing that out again.” 

“There’s not a lot of information coming out, when I’d think they would have seen this coming, and what information that is coming out is very unreliable, which makes it very difficult from a business perspective.” 

Ball said daily updates are being provided to all stakeholders about the progress of cargo, noting that it’s important that the port is honest with importers about how tough things are right now.

Shipping industry should consider nuclear option for decarbonizing: experts

in International Shipping News 06/11/2020

Stakeholders in the maritime industry are considering an increased uptake of nuclear power as one of its choices as it strives to meet decarbonization targets that the International Maritime Organization has mandated, according to industry observers and participants.

Nuclear power has been shunned because of safety, geopolitical security, and economic reasons, but it is an established technology in which new frontiers are being developed and should be considered as an option in the debate on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, Edmund Hughes of consultancy Green Marine Associates and the former head of Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency at the IMO, told S&P Global Platts Nov. 4.

There are some inquiries from companies about the further uptake of nuclear power within the shipping industry and its impact on the sector could be significant, Andreas Sohmen-Pao, chairman of shipping company BW Group said Oct. 28 during a webinar on decarbonization that Norwegian Business Association Singapore organized.

Over 160 ships are powered by more than 200 small nuclear reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association. Military vessels in the US and Russian navies, and ships that Russia’s Sovcomflot owns and operates are some examples.

This source of power confers some advantages. “You will have ships going maybe 50% faster because the fuel is essentially free once you have made the upfront capex investment,” Sohmen-Pao said.

This has obvious implications for the supply side of the bunker industry.

There is existing IMO legislation for nuclear-powered ships. Chapter VIII of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 gives basic requirements for nuclear-powered ships that are particularly concerned with radiation hazards. This set of rules refers to a detailed and comprehensive Code of Safety for nuclear merchant ships, which the IMO Assembly adopted in 1981, according to IMO material.

IMO legislation would need to be updated to take into account more recent developments, the existing legislation was developed with military applications in mind, Hughes said. One example is the small-scale molten salt reactor, Hughes said.

London-based CORE POWER is working with Advanced Reactor Developers to meet the demand for disruptive energy technology in ocean transportation. On Nov. 2, it announced its participation with Southern Company, TerraPower, and Orano USA to develop Molten Salt Reactor atomic technology in the US.

The IMO is targeting a reduction in the carbon intensity of international shipping by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 2008 levels and by 70% by 2050. It is also targeting cuts of annual GHGs from international shipping by 50% by 2050, compared with 2008 levels.

Shipping industry players are considering a range of long-term zero-carbon solutions, such as ammonia and hydrogen.

These options are not risk free and present the problem of low energy density, Hughes said.
Source: Platts

Coronavirus: Ports ‘won’t change position’ on foreign crew COVID-19 rules, despite Health Minister’s request

The Health Minister has moved to plug a gap in New Zealand’s COVID-19 response system, with all foreign ship crew coming in or out the country will now face mandatory testing. 

However, the country’s two biggest ports, Auckland and Tauranga, already have that and more – making the Minister’s announcement largely redundant. 

Hundreds of foreign seafarers have flown into New Zealand and boarded ships without being tested – but that will no longer be allowed. 

“Today, I’m announcing that we will be introducing mandatory testing for all workers that will be transferring onto or off a ship through New Zealand,” Chris Hipkins said at a press conference on Friday.

Foreign crews transfers – or crew swaps – happen so seafarers, who’ve made the often weeks-long journey to New Zealand on a ship, can then fly out and return to their homes overseas. 

The rule change follows a border failure which saw an Auckland engineer catch COVID-19. 

The most likely source was untested foreign crew, who’d flown into Auckland and boarded the bulk carrier, Sofrana Surville, in Taranaki – the same ship the engineer was working on. 

But the Minister’s announcement will actually have little effect, as the country’s two biggest ports have already said that it will be mandatory for all foreign crew to undergo 14 days in isolation and produce double negative tests before they board any ship. 

“We would prefer that the ports didn’t go and set up their own arrangements and set their own rules,” Hipkins said.

But those arrangements are already in place. 

“We’re not going to change our position on this,” Matt Ball, Ports of Auckland spokesperson, told Newshub. “We think it’s really important to protect our staff.”

The Minister doesn’t want foreign crew to isolate for 14 days, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt cargo ship operations.

“If we said that every ship coming into New Zealand had to float offshore for 14 days, they simply wouldn’t come,” Hipkins explained.

But Ball says that’s simply not the case, and not how it works. He says all it means is that shipping agents need to plan to get crew in two weeks earlier. 

Hipkins said the measure the Ports of Auckland have put in place won’t really increase protection at all – but again, the company disagrees.

“All we’ve done is basically introduce for transferring crew the same measures that anyone coming into New Zealand has to go through [14 days in managed isolation],” Ball says.

“So it must be safe, because the Government’s approved it.”

Ball says it’s about providing the best possible layers of protection for their staff – but also for staff at ports in the Pacific and beyond. 

Shipping lines bypassing New Zealand’s ports

Photo / File

Photo / File

New Zealand’s large ports are facing delays from a range factors, including some vessels just not arriving.

Shippers Council chairman Simon Beale says there needs to be good forecasting for shipping lines.

But he says some vessels have been delayed coming to New Zealand after port strikes in Sydney.

Beale told Mike Hosking operational changes following a recent death at Ports of Auckland, are also having an impact.

“Some vessels are going to Tauranga Port instead, which then impacts cargo movements on rail.”

Beale says it could take until Christmas to clear the backlog.

COVID-19: Exporters facing huge delays as rail restricts container numbers

Kiwi businesses looking for relief from a COVID-19 downturn are facing frustrating export delays, with some waiting more than a month to ship their products overseas. a truck that has a sign on the side of a road: Rail has restricted container numbers causing huge exporting delays.© Newshub – Rail has restricted container numbers causing huge exporting delays.

Managing director of Morey Oil South Pacific, Shelley Free, said its oil exports bound for Brisbane typically took four days to cross the ditch, but wait times were now up to 37 days. 

“Which is probably applicable to the fact that the boats have just all been fully booked,” she said. 

“I know COVID-19 is to blame for a lot of this but, if we’ve got to get our economy up and running again, it means exporting.”

COVID-19 and strikes at Australian ports have caused congestion at our ports, delaying cargo ships arrival times. Some ships have been forced to anchor off the coast of Auckland for six days before they can dock. 

A big part of the problem is on land.

Auckland’s rail facility Metroport, that sends exports to the Port of Tauranga, is so stressed, it’s told customers it can’t accept all of their cargo.

“[Rail] can’t cope with massive volume like we have now, so delays to and from the Port of Tauranga up to seven to 10 days is also affecting the supply chain quite significantly,” Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation President Chris Edwards said. 

Metroport is at full capacity, so much so it had to shut its gates last week and stop accepting all exports. 

Newshub has obtained evidence of it telling some shipping lines on Thursday that it won’t accept their exports until next week. 

Port of Tauranga, which owns Metroport, told Newshub it has put caps on container numbers to ease the pressure, but they should lift early next week. 

“We are working closely with shipping lines and KiwiRail to ensure priority cargo is transferred as quickly as possible,” a POT spokeswoman said. 

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said it was experiencing a significant increase in demand to move freight, to the point where it needed to be managed carefully. 

“We are urging road transport operators and customs agents to clear their cargoes from Metroport Auckland as soon as practicable.”

Customs had received no complaints, but New Zealand Trade and Enterprise said it was monitoring the situation. 

“At this stage, we are making our exporters aware of potential port congestion issues and suggesting they work closely with freight forwarders to ensure they can get their goods out of New Zealand.”