Queensland Covid-19 vessel ban is ‘reckless and indefensible’, says shipping group

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ID 16170405 © Imagecom | Dreamstime.comBy Gavin van Marle 18/03/2020

Australian shipping lobby group Shipping Australia has slammed today’s decision by the state of Queensland to introduce restrictions on ships calling at its ports, particularly the container hub of Brisbane.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) today banned all commercial ships from entering ports in the state if the ship, or anyone on board, has been in any country outside Australia within the past 14 days.

Contravention of the MSQ ruling is a criminal offence, for which the maximum penalty is A$66,725 ($40,000) for an individual and A$333,625 for a corporation.

Shipping Australia said it understood other maritime authorities in the country were considering similar restrictions, and claimed they could put society as a whole at risk.

“Australian port authorities are now exacerbating an already bad coronavirus situation by restricting the ability of cargo ships to deliver desperately needed goods.

“This is putting Australian families at risk by potentially causing supply chain shortages of medicines and everyday consumer needs,” it added.

Shipping Australia’s chief executive, Rod Nairn, said: “The MSQ policy is reckless and indefensible; cargo ship crews are probably the lowest-risk sector in the world, with not one cargo ship crew member yet being confirmed as having Covid-19.”

The organisation noted that most Asia-Australia shipping services “are only six to eight days’ duration and ships would have to potentially wait around for up to 14 days to enter.

“And that’s at a cost of A$25,000 a day. When a port entry costs about A$250,000 a time, shipping lines are indicating that these directions from port authorities to stay away are simply unsustainable”, it said.

It further claimed that some carriers could be forced to omit port calls, which would “lead to massive relocation of cargo away from where it is supposed to be and it will have to be trucked across the continent.

“Trucking costs could escalate. Australia is a big place – it will take days upon days to get to where it is needed. Costs to everyday Australians could rocket.”

And it also claimed that the restrictions would also hit container supply chains serving New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, for which Australian ports commonly act as hubs.

“Blocking shipping’s ability to deliver desperately needed freight to the islands is not an optimal outlook.

“Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia both have 14-day exclusion periods. So, as of now, the Aus-New Zealand trade is being killed off,” it said.

…And the world of shipping continues as usual

It might seem like an obvious statement to regular readers of Seatrade Maritime News but despite the global COVID-19 pandemic the world shipping continues to work pretty much as usual round the clock.

As people in many countries find themselves confined to their houses and working from home, we thought it was worth highlighting the shipping industry continues to run as normal, if largely unseen, as usual, to the general public.

Early morning on Friday off Changi point in Singapore on a number of vessels could be seen either on voyages or performing operations at time when most would be yet to start work, even if their current commute consists of little more than walking to the dining room table.

The bulker Ocean Future could be seen performing what appeared to be a transloading operation near Palau Tekong.

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The floating crane vessel Asian Hercules sailed through the narrow strait moving from Pasir Gudang, Malaysia to Gul Basin in Singapore according to Marinetraffic.com

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The Japanese cruise ship Asuka II was sailing outbound having apparently come dock in Sembawang Shipyard.

Meanwhile at least two other tankers were spotted sailing outbound most likely from Pasir Gudang in Malaysia.

Neptune Pacific Line Acquires Pacific Direct Line

in International Shipping News 14/03/2020

Friday, Neptune Pacific Line (Neptune) announced it has acquired Pacific Direct Line (PDL) from PDL’s parent holding company, Pacific International Lines (PIL). The combined business will seamlessly link transport, warehousing, depots and customs clearance services and fully integrate customers’ supply chains across 18 South Pacific markets.

The acquisition of PDL will strengthen Neptune’s Melanesian and Polynesian network, provide a link to Micronesia and the French territories, and enhance connectivity to global markets via strategic hubs in New Zealand and Fiji.

“This purchase supports our long-term vision of creating the strongest and best regional network of shipping and logistics services in the Pacific Islands,” said Rolf Rasmussen, Managing Director of Neptune. “By acquiring PDL, we can further develop our mainline shipping network to provide fixed-day services and increase the utilization of our combined fleet, enabling us to continue to offer competitive freight rates. PDL’s extensive logistics network will allow us to support our customers across their entire supply chain needs.”

“Our group strives to optimise our resources and to review our overall business approach for new business opportunities,” said Teo Siong Seng, Executive Chairman and Managing Director of PIL. “The divestment of PDL is part of our strategic move that enables PIL to focus its resources on growing in the key liner markets that it operates in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. We will continue to improve our liner services between Asia and Oceania including the South Pacific Islands.”

PDL currently operates throughout the South Pacific region and specialises in providing liner shipping services from New Zealand and Australia to the South Pacific Islands. With the acquisition of PDL, Neptune will now have a specialized fleet of nine vessels dedicated to South Pacific Island trades and a team of more than 800, most of whom are based in supply chain services in the region.

“Pacific Direct Line was founded to support the socio-economic development of the Pacific Islands by providing reliable, consistent shipping and logistics services,” said Oliver Ravel, CEO of PDL. “Today, with the support of PIL, PDL has grown to become a market leader in the South Pacific. By selling the business to our regional partner, we can ensure that this legacy will live on and that our customers will continue to be supported by a local service provider that understands the needs of the region.”
Source: Neptune Pacific Line (Neptune)

Ports of Auckland terminal automation

The following is an announcement from Ports of Auckland:

In preparation for phase 1 go-live, we have begun trialling small container exchanges on regular vessels using the automated systems.
The first of these took place last night (12 March) and went well. The MSC Lori completed its normal exchange at our FX/FZ berths and was then moved to Fergusson North (FN) to top off the load with empty containers.

This practice run has given our staff and external parties like truck drivers valuable experience with the new system and processes.
We are aiming to complete a second empty loading practice next week, if shipping schedules allow, and possibly a third the week after.
We will then carry out an exchange on a vessel at FN, which will mark the ‘official’ go-live for Phase 1 of automation.

Phase 1 involves turning on the automation on the northern part of our terminal, serving Fergusson North Berth (FN, the wharf with the new cranes on it). We will start phase 1 with one ship a week and gradually build up until we are delivering a full service across multiple vessels handled each week.
We will also trial moving laden imports that have come off vessels at FX/FZ through the automated terminal to be delivered via the A-Strad truck grids so we can build experience and capacity gradually over the coming weeks.

The switch to full terminal wide automation will probably not happen until late June, and only when we have complete confidence in the operation of the automated systems.

COVID-19 has caused many problems worldwide, including reducing our container volumes in February and March. However, the silver lining in this cloud is that the reduced workload has made it easier to train our stevedoring teams in the new processes for automation. We are also likely to be able to bring forward some of the remaining pavement work we need to do before going live in the southern part of the terminal in June.

It is important to understand that the changes we are making at Fergusson Container Terminal are significant in terms of how we will operate in the future. Critically, automation provides additional yard capacity, more stevedoring resource and consistent handling of trucks through the main truck grid. It does not mean more VBS slots during the daytime hours of Monday to Friday, but once fully implemented in the second half of 2020 it will deliver more consistent levels of service throughout the day and night, as well as weekends. Business processes will change, particularly when it comes to managing exceptions. This is new technology and a new way of operating. POAL is leading worldwide innovation by combining a manned (people) straddle operation with automated straddles. From the onset we have to manage the operation carefully and build up our capacity and operations in a way that ensures safety for our people and a reliable and sustainable level of service to our customers.

For any further questions related to Automation please also refer to our FAQ on our website. http://www.poal.co.nz/about-us/Pages/Automation.aspx
We will continue to provide regular updates and please continue to tune into our Website for further updates.

New Zealand ports see growth amid potential cargo shift

in Port News 18/02/2020

New Zealand’s ports have generally continued to experience growth in container volumes amid potential that all freight operations at the Ports of Auckland could eventually get dispersed amongst other nearby ports.

Ports of Auckland plays a huge role in New Zealand’s trade with other countries, being that it handles the second highest amount of container volumes in New Zealand, with the Port of Tauranga taking first place. However, the Ports of Auckland did experience year-over-year declines in net profit and container volumes for fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, 2019 for New Zealand’s ports.

From port to port. New Zealand’s ports collectively handled 3.43 million TEUs in FY 2019, up 1.3% from FY 2018 and up 7.4% from two years prior, as illustrated in the chart below, which was built using data from the relevant port authorities across the country.

Six of the ports saw container volumes increase year-over-year in FY 2019, while three experienced a decline, as illustrated in the chart below, which was also built using port authority data.

The chart below, built using data from BlueWater Reporting’s Port Dashboard tool, shows the Port of Tauranga is called by the most liner services that connect New Zealand to regions beyond Oceania at 13, nine of which are container services, followed by the Ports of Auckland with 11 liner services, six of which are container services.

The Ports of Auckland and the Port of Tauranga have the strongest global ties of New Zealand’s ports. While the vast majority of the liner services that call New Zealand don’t sail beyond Oceania or Asia, there are four liner services that call New Zealand that sail beyond these two regions.

The chart below, built using data from BlueWater Reporting’s Port Dashboard tool, shows the three container services calling New Zealand that also sail beyond just Oceania and Asia. All three call the Port of Tauranga, while two of the three call the Ports of Auckland.

Not included in this chart is a roll-on/roll-off service operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Although the ro-ro service’s rotation changes slightly with each voyage, it tends to sail between North Europe, the East Coast of North America, Central America, Oceania, Asia, West Coast North America, Mexico, Central America, East Coast North America and back to North Europe. The ro-ro service tends to only call Auckland in New Zealand.

Shift proposal. A final report by The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) Working Group, an independent working group that reported to New Zealand’s Ministers of Finance, Transport and Regional Development, found that the Ports of Auckland is unviable long term.

The final report, titled, “Transforming Auckland; Transforming Northland – Final Report of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) Working Group,” was released in November.

The UNISCS Working Group recommended that Northport, which operates a multi-purpose port in Marsden Point, should be developed to take over much or all of Auckland’s existing and projected freight business, while the Port of Tauranga’s existing expansion plans should proceed to accommodate growth.

“The new two-port configuration should be supported by a rejuvenated North Auckland rail line and spur to Northport, and a new inland freight hub in northwest Auckland to complement and be connected to Metroport (Auckland) in the south,” the UNISCS said.

MetroPort Auckland is an intermodal cargo hub that connects to the Port of Tauranga via rail.

The working group recommended the government give the ports until Dec. 1 of this year to reach a commercial agreement on how the strategy should be implemented. Additionally, the working group recommended the transition begin immediately and be fully implemented by no later than 2034.

The working group said it “argues for Tauranga to continue with its growth plans but for Northport to be the major site to cater for freight growth over the next 15 years and beyond.”

In response to the finding’s, New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport said in December that the working group’s recommendations raise a range of economic, social and environmental questions for the government to consider. Consequently, the government instructed the Ministry of Transport to undertake further analysis and report back to the Cabinet in May.

Time for a shift? There appears to be numerous reasons to shift freight operations from the Ports of Auckland, with one of the largest being the amount of money that would have to be invested into the site for it to remain viable.

The UNISCS Working Group noted how the Ports of Auckland’s freight operations are already constrained, particularly on the landside, adding how it would require an estimated NZ$4 billion in investment over the next 30 years and the dredging of a further two million metric tons from Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor for the port to effectively handle New Zealand’s expected freight growth.

Additionally, existing port operations in Auckland remain highly industrial, and include the importation and storage of containers, vehicles, coal and cement. “These uses produce very poor returns for its owner, Auckland Council, with dividends dropping as low as NZ$8.7 million for the privilege of occupying land with probable value of NZ$6 billion,” the working group added.

Business at the port was not exactly booming in FY 2019. The Ports of Auckland’s annual report for the fiscal year showed that compared to the prior fiscal year, breakbulk cargo volumes (including cars) fell 3.3%, container volumes fell 3.5% and car volumes fell 14.3%.

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson said container volumes were down because infrastructure work needed to automate the terminal reduced the terminal’s capacity and made operating more difficult. Additionally, he said car volumes were hindered by a drop in car sales, as well as new treatment rules for imported vehicles, which are designed to prevent the brown marmorated stink bug from entering the country.
However, data from Ports of Auckland shows that container volumes for FY 2019 were the lowest they had been since FY 2016, as illustrated in the chart below.

Additionally, Auckland’s economy is no longer based on manufacturing, let alone agricultural commodities, but is overwhelmingly dominated by services, according to the UNISCS Working Group, which added how Auckland generates export revenues from tourism, education and IT, which don’t require a port.

It also appears most Aucklanders don’t necessarily want a port in the area. A June 2019 Colmar Brunton study, dubbed, “Aucklanders’ Sentiment Towards Moving the Auckland Port,” which was prepared for the Ministry of Transport on behalf of the UNISCS Working Group, asked respondents, “How do you think moving the cargo port would affect Auckland’s attractiveness as a place to live, work or visit?” Sixty-two percent of respondents said they thought that moving the cargo port to a new location (possibly outside Auckland) would make Auckland much/slightly better.

Potential prospects. Auckland, Tauranga and Northport make up the Upper North Island’s three ports. While Northport is New Zealand’s newest port with a massive amount of potential, the Port of Tauranga is the country’s biggest port and continues to see rampant growth.

“The progressive and managed closure of Auckland’s freight operations, the development of Northport and the continuation of Tauranga’s existing expansion plans is in the best interests of Auckland, the rest of the Upper North Island and New Zealand as a whole,” according to the UNISCS Working Group.
In regards to Northport, the working group noted how there is a vast supply of flat, industrial-zoned land adjacent to the port with no higher alternative uses. “The storage of imported vehicles, empty containers and bulk goods can take place around Northport at a fraction of the cost possible in Auckland,” the working group said.

Additionally, the working group pointed out how New Zealand relies mostly on agriculture and forestry to supply exports to provide income for the country. “Of the Upper North Island’s three ports, Tauranga is close to producers of export commodities and is known best as a successful export port, but is also taking an increasing share of Auckland’s import business. Like Tauranga, Northport is also close to producers of export products and also handles the importation of all of New Zealand’s fuel, but its expansion is hampered by the absence of a rail connection.”

Northport features a three-berth facility at Marsden Point with a total wharf length of 570 meters, according to Northport’s website. For berths one and two, there is 13 meters of water available at chart datum and 14.5 meters at berth three.

The port’s terminal primarily focuses on the export of forest products, although it can cater to large, multi-purpose vessels. The port features 58 hectares of land, 30 hectares of which are currently paved and being used for cargo operations, while there is over 180 hectares of land outside the port that is available for port-related ventures to set up and operate from.

Meanwhile, container volumes over at the Port of Tauranga are booming, as well as substantial upgrades at the port.

“International experts have told us that Port of Tauranga can easily accommodate up to 2.8 million TEUs on our current footprint. We already have the next stage of capacity expansion under way,” Port of Tauranga CEO Mark Cairns said in December. “We still have plenty of capacity on the rail connection between Tauranga and Auckland, with the ability to double the current number of trains per day.”

A Port of Tauranga spokesperson told BlueWater Reporting in January that the port owns 190 hectares of land on both sides of Tauranga Harbor, with about 40 hectares still available for development.

“Our next significant capital expenditure will be extending the container terminal quay to the south. Port-owned land adjacent to the existing berths will be converted from cargo storage to a fourth container vessel berth, adding up to 385 meters to the overall quay length. We hope to have this completed in about two years,” the spokesperson added.

The port’s ninth ship-to-shore crane is being delivered in early 2020 as well as seven straddle carriers.

“Future stages of expansion will be driven by cargo volume growth and will primarily involve rail-mounted stacking cranes and additional ship-to-shore cranes,” the spokesperson said.

Ports of Auckland’s perks. Although business at the Ports of Auckland did decline in FY 2019, it still plays a huge role in New Zealand trade, and upgrades at the key port remain underway.

Current projects in the works include automation at the container terminal, as well as a car handling facility.

Beginning in 2020, the container terminal will become the first in New Zealand to use automated straddle carriers to load and unload trucks and operate the container yard, according to a Ports of Auckland FAQ pamphlet updated in January. There will be a total of 27 automated straddles, although the terminal will retain 24 manual straddles for servicing the vessel cranes and the out of gauge, oversized cargo truck lanes. The northern berth will be automated first in late March 2020, while the launch of phase two is expected to occur in May, in which automated straddles will work the southern half of the terminal.

Meanwhile, the Ports of Auckland reiterated in its December 2019 quarterly newsletter that its car handling facility will be complete by August 2020. The facility will allow the port to handle more cars in less space and will be capable of holding up to 1,700 vehicles.

Additionally, the Ports of Auckland does still appear to economically benefit Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. The consulting firm New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) released a report in October 2019, dubbed, “Location, location, location – The value of having a port in the neighbourhood,” which found that the national economy, measured by GDP, would be well over NZ$1 billion smaller per year if goods moved through another port.

NZIER noted how the value of cargo crossing the wharfs at the port has grown faster than the volume, especially on the import side, as well as how the downtown port serves the country’s largest and fastest growing center of economic activity.

The port “gives firms in Auckland a competitive advantage: the final leg of an import journey is a short one, as is the first leg of an export journey,” NZIER said.

Additionally, data from BlueWater Reporting’s Country to Country Transit Analysis by Service tool shows how the Ports of Auckland plays a key role in liner shipping operations from China, New Zealand’s top trading partner, in terms of imports and exports.

The first chart below shows that four of the five fastest liner shipping transits from China to New Zealand involve Auckland. However, the second chart below shows that from New Zealand to China, the fastest transits involve the Port of Tauranga, followed by the ports of Napier and Lyttelton.

Source: Bluewater Reporting

Trucking sector suffering as coronavirus outbreak stalls freight

The coronavirus outbreak in China is having a serious impact on the New Zealand trucking sector, with an industry leader predicting it could get worse.

The National Road Carriers Association (NRC) represents 1800 road transport companies collectively operating 16,000 trucks throughout New Zealand.

Chief Executive, David Aitken said companies which carry exports like logs and meat to ports or Chinese imports to New Zealand warehouses and retailers were feeling the pinch. 

“It’s potentially going to get worse quickly,” said Aitken.

“With Chinese towns and cities in lockdown, many factories are closed and therefore not taking goods, nor producing goods. We are aware of importers who are not able to place orders and expect to run short if production doesn’t get back to normal soon. “This has consequences for our sector,” he said.

A number of forestry operations throughout the country have stopped logging with the Forest Industry Contractors Association reporting about 30 percent of the country’s logging crews are unable to work amid the supply chain disruption and no one knows how long the situation will last. 

“This will have a flow-on effect to truck operators.”

Meat works have reduced kills for the China market meaning farmers are having to keep stock even during the drought conditions we are experiencing, so stock are not being carried to the meat processors, and processed goods are not transported to ships. 

“We understand freezers and chillers are full so this will further affect the processors’ ability to take stock.

“There are also limited goods coming out of China, so the number of containers with goods destined for New Zealand shop shelves is expected to be down. These are just some of the effects, all of which will reduce the number of road transport movements.”

Aitken said NRC was advising its trucking company members to be aware of the situation and plan where possible.

“We are telling trucking companies to do what they can to keep their company infrastructure in place. When this virus blows over, which it will, there will be a mad rush to move goods around again. Chinese people need to eat, and China needs materials to get its industries up and running again.”

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer told RNZ that the company was working hard to try and balance storage and processing capacity.

“It’s a little bit of a perfect storm I guess at the moment because whilst we’ve got big livestock flows, plus the drought really putting pressure on processing capacity, the coronavirus situation has meant we don’t have a lot of confidence to in our ability, or the supply chains ability to get product into China just at the moment.”

Government to buy land for rail to Northport and Marsden Point

Charlie  Dreaver

Charlie Dreaver, Political Reportercharlie.dreaver@rnz.co.nz

The government has announced it will be buying land to build a spurline to Northport and Marsden Point and upgrading rail in the Northland region.

Railroad tracks. Railway tracks. generic

$40m has been earmarked to to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point. Photo: 123RF

Today’s announcement comes as ministers are still considering the New Zealand First-backed policy of moving the bulk of Auckland’s freight operations to Northport.

State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today said $109.7 million would be invested into upgrading Northland’s rail infrastructure through the Provincial Growth Fund.

They said $69.7m would be spent to lower the tracks through tunnels on the Northland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, reopening the rail line from Kauri and building a container terminal at Otiria.

Another $40m was earmarked to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point.

Jones said the investment would allow KiwiRail to secure the land needed for a new rail line to Northport.

“Having this land means that when the government does make its final decision about a future port in Northland, we will be ready to get going,” he said.

Last year it was announced $95m of provincial growth funding would be used to undertake maintenance on the rail line to Whangarei.

Peters said this second phase of funding was a game changer, allowing more freight onto rail and help reduce road congestion, road maintenance costs and lower carbon emissions.

“It will also mean that modern shipping containers can be carried through the tunnels on the North Auckland Line,” he said.

Mayors back move

In a joint statement, Far North mayor John Carter, Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai and Kaipara mayor Jason Smith welcomed the announcement.

“These are historic investments, the start of a decade-long economic transformation for Northland to make an ever-greater contribution to the prosperity of the Upper North Island and all of New Zealand,” they said.

Carter hoped today’s announcement was a sign of good things to come for Northland, and said it was now up to the mayors to tell Northlanders and those in Auckland of the benefits of moving to Northport.

“It’s an indication of the fact that we now need to do our part so that then the parliamentarians, particularly during an election year, can do their part and they know they will get the support of the people if they come up with the goods,” he said.

He said moving the Auckland’s main port to Northport would be good for not only Northland but the whole of New Zealand.

National criticises spend on rail link before port decision

National Party Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said the government was going about it the wrong way.

“The first thing to do should be to decide if the port is going to move to Northport and then you go about creating the infrastructure to make that happen.

“Instead what New Zealand First has essentially forced on the government is spending $40 million to buy the land for a spurline to Northport, in advance of a decision being made to move the port,” he said.

Bishop said if the port did not move, the government would have spent $40 million on a line that was irrelevant.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it showed they were a common sense government.

“It makes sense to connect your port to rail, regardless.”

She would not say whether it signalled a move to Northport.

Cabinet ministers want more homework done on port relocation

Shane Jones is keen to avoid too many more lengthy reports but acknowledges it’s a once-in-a-generation project and widespread buy-in is important. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller.

Cabinet ministers have ordered more work to be done on the Northport proposal, to report back to Cabinet mid next year.

It’s officially released the report of the working group set up to consider the best configuration for the upper North Island ports, which came back with a strong recommendation to progressively move Auckland’s freight operations to Northland.

The Transport Ministry will now do more work on funding and financing options, governance and commercial considerations, land use planning and a range of other factors.

(Read the full report: PDF 1.4MB)

The Cabinet paper released alongside the report said the “key issue” for ministers was “whether the the potential gain… is sufficient to justify the significant Crown seed investment and possible need for regulatory and legislative intervention”.

Using the latter approach, it said, would result in “significant levers to use given the implications for private property rights”.

The working group made its one recommendations after considering eight scenarios – Cabinet ministers also want the ministry to also take another look at those scenarios.

(Read the full report: PDF 1.1MB)

The paper noted the “limited share of decision making rights” held by the Crown if it comes to relocating ports, and the importance of getting key stakeholders such as the Ports of Auckland and the Auckland Council on board.

“We advocate early and open engagement with the owners of the current upper North Island ports…and the Port Companies” to build consensus, the paper said.

The current owners are “cornerstone partners whose agreement and cooperation in any decision will be a requirement of making progress”.

It acknowledged engagement with those parties had been “limited to date…we anticipate aligning the partners will take some time to achieve”.

The ministry will also work with the newly formed Infrastructure Commission to help with the analysis.

Associate Transport Minister and chief cheerleader Shane Jones said he was “pleased” his Cabinet colleagues have “recognised the merit of this report and have agreed to move forward with this work”.

“I expect this analysis to consider environmental effects, including on New Zealand’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, and consideration of government infrastructure investments in roads and rail, for example, building a rail spur to Marsden Point,” he said.

“Nobody is keen on spending too much longer developing lengthy reports but this is a once-in-a-generation project and widespread buy-in is important, as is the need to make the best decisions for the long-term prosperity of our supply chain.”

It remained his view that Northport was “the most sensible relocation option” but he accepted this “is a whole-of-government decision”.

The working group has estimated the cost of the Northport proposal at around $10 billion.

Cabinet expects a report back by May next year. The report has a budget of $2 million.

Goff says compensation essential

Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff says the city’s residents will need compensation when the port is eventually relocated.

Goff said a newly released working group report on the Northport proposal suggests Auckland is left with the land rather than being bought out.

He said residents have invested over $600m in the port and should be treated as shareholders.

“They need to get some sort of compensation if that asset were to get taken off them and that’s basically what Treasury and the Ministry of Transport have pointed towards,” Goff said.

“This isn’t the wild west, you can’t go around nationalising things and saying: ‘well, just be grateful we’ve left you the land even if we’ve taken the value of the company off it’.”

Goff said he was pleased Cabinet ministers have ordered more work to be done on the Northport proposal.

“What we wanted was evidence driven, robust and independent of any vested interest group report saying how it should happen and where it should go to,” he said.

‘Pie in the sky’ – Bridges

National’s leader Simon Bridges said the $10b price would be a big hit on the government’s books.

“If they make this decision they won’t have a single bean left from their infrastructure spend up; they can only spend this borrowed money once.”

And he questioned the government’s ability to make Northport a reality.

“These guys can’t deliver, they are unrealistic, they’re pie in the sky, they come up with a lot of stuff. They’re always short on the implementation and the delivery – this thing is fraught with issues.”

Northport wants to talk to two other ports

Northport said it is ready to meet with Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga to discuss the future of freight for the North Island.

In a statement, its chairman Murray Jagger said a newly released working group report on the Northport proposal gives it confidence to talk about the potential opportunities.

Mr Jagger said the three ports need to digest the ramifications of the report and discuss the situation together.

“Northport has a very clear vision of the role it can play in the economic growth of Northland, Auckland and New Zealand,” he said.

“Significant growth is possible here. We have been clear for many years that we stand ready to assist in any way we can to support Auckland’s growth and the aspirations that Aucklanders have for their waterfront.”

Mr Jagger said he hoped to convene a meeting of the chairs of all three ports involved – Northport, Port of Tauranga and Ports of Auckland.

“We need to digest the ramifications of what we’ve seen and heard today, and flesh out a win-win-win situation not just for our three communities, but for all of New Zealand,” he said.

“We then need to seek the input of tangata whenua, our wider communities, and business and civic leadership before bringing these suggestions to government.”

Ports of Auckland has declined an interview with RNZ.

Dave Morgan, flamboyant and newsworthy union leader

Karl du Fresne, Dec 07 2019

Dave Morgan, pictured on his retirement as national secretary of the Maritime Union in 2003.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF Dave Morgan, pictured on his retirement as national secretary of the Maritime Union in 2003.

David John (Dave) Morgan, trade unionist; b Adelaide, South Australia, May 29, 1940; d Masterton, November 5, 2019

Dave Morgan was one of the last of a generation of New Zealand trade union leaders who were once household names.

His death at the age of 79 recalled a time when industrial disputes were constantly in the headlines and union leaders such as Morgan, Pat Kelly, Bill Andersen, Ken Douglas, Blue Kennedy and Con Devitt were publicly branded as wreckers and agitators. 

Of that coterie of formidable unionists, only Douglas – now 84 – survives. 

For 30 years, the Australian-born Morgan led a union that was synonymous in the public mind – not always fairly – with disruption to shipping, most notoriously on the Cook Strait ferries.  

As president of the Seamen’s Union, which became the Seafarers’ Union after a 1989 merger with the smaller but equally stroppy Cooks and Stewards Union, he was a newsworthy figure.

He was also, by trade union standards, an unusually flamboyant one, noted for his collection of stylish hats and colourful ties. Known in union circles as The Hat, he had a sense of style that set him apart in a line of work not normally associated with sartorial elegance. 

Asked about his celebrated collection of headwear, he once said his motive was purely pragmatic. “I would have thought it was pretty self-evident – I’m as bald as a badger.”

Public attitudes to the Seamen’s Union were summed up in a North and South article in 1990 by David McLoughlin, who wrote: “They’re widely seen as the mob which stops the Cook Strait ferries in the middle of seemingly every holiday … enormously powerful, featherbedded, working only half the year if they’re unlucky, overpaid, flown to their jobs from wherever in the country they choose to live”.

Dave "The Hat" Morgan and Seamen's Union colleagues occupying the Shipping Corporation's boardroom in Wellington in 1988.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF Dave “The Hat” Morgan and Seamen’s Union colleagues occupying the Shipping Corporation’s boardroom in Wellington in 1988.

It was certainly true that the two major maritime unions, the seamen and the watersiders, wielded unusual power in an economy almost wholly dependent on shipborne trade. That power was magnified by the seamen’s ability to shut down commerce between the North and South islands.

It was also true that the shipping industry had a history of harsh working conditions, anachronistic employment practices and combative relationships with shipping companies dating back to the 19th century. All this contributed to a tough and uncompromisingly militant union culture.  

Yet shipping employers who dealt with Morgan respected him as an honest negotiator and liked him personally. That was evident from heartfelt and moving tributes paid to him privately after his death from cancer.

He was easy to like: amiable and quietly spoken (although a stirring orator when the occasion required it), with a distinctive raspy voice and a bone-dry sense of humour. But you knew there was a steely core there somewhere. There had to be, to maintain control over a union whose fractious members could be just as challenging to deal with as the bosses.

In a newspaper story marking Morgan’s retirement 16 years ago, Pacifica Transport chief executive Rod Grout said Morgan would fight tooth and nail for his members, but added that “you knew where you stood with him”. And he gave Morgan much of the credit for promoting shipping industry reforms that helped end the disruption of Cook Strait ferry sailings.  

Morgan was admired internationally. Following his death, messages of sympathy flowed in from around the world – evidence of his involvement in causes such as the campaign against apartheid, and of his assistance to unionists in Third World countries where he would have clandestine meetings with local activists forced to live like fugitives under authoritarian regimes. 

Much of the disruption caused by the Seamen’s Union was political rather than industrial. Morgan was instrumental in initiating a long-standing trade ban against Chile after the 1973 military coup that overthrew the elected socialist leader Salvador Allende, and he was proud of the union’s role in opposing a visit to New Zealand by the nuclear-powered warship the USS Truxtun.

Seamen's Union members protesting at Port Taranaki in 1983. Strikes among maritime workers used to be common before the upheavals of the late 1980.
ARCHIVE Seamen’s Union members protesting at Port Taranaki in 1983. Strikes among maritime workers used to be common before the upheavals of the late 1980.

It was clear from Morgan’s funeral in Masterton’s Copthorne Solway Park Hotel that respect for him spanned ideological lines across the Left. Former Labour Party deputy leader and Cabinet minister Annette King, an old friend, flew from Canberra, where she is now New Zealand’s high commissioner, to deliver a eulogy. Justice Minister Andrew Little – himself a former union leader, though of a more moderate persuasion than Morgan – also attended.

The 260 mourners were treated to a verbal tour-de-force by the Australian unionist Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, who delivered a spirited and often humorous 20-minute off-the-cuff oration, barely pausing for breath, on socialist values and the virtues of working-class solidarity.

Born in Adelaide, Morgan was one of three siblings in a Catholic family. He was taught by nuns of the Sacred Heart order, whom he recalled with some fondness, and later by the Marist Brothers, whose brutal discipline engendered less affection.

It was said at his funeral that he once considered entering the priesthood, but after going to sea at 16 as a deckhand on the BHP-owned Iron Monarch, Morgan discovered another belief system that resonated more powerfully with him. By the age of 18 he was a member of the Australian Communist Party. He remained a committed socialist until the end, although in later life he disavowed any party alignment. 

In a 1998 radio interview with Brian Edwards, Morgan recalled being radicalised during late-night debates in the ship’s mess-room. The Iron Monarch had a crew of 24, of whom five or six were communists. 

Morgan was captivated by the ideological dynamics of his working environment. Communism, he explained to Edwards, held out the hope of a better life. That was a widely held view among his union peers in the 1950s and 60s, and it persisted despite evidence of appalling repression under communist regimes.

Morgan told Edwards that, while he was no apologist for the denial of human rights, he refused to condemn communism because of mistakes or excesses by leaders such as Joseph Stalin.

Bill "Pincher" Martin, Morgan's predecssor at the Seamen's Union, in 1971.
THE DOMINION Bill “Pincher” Martin, Morgan’s predecssor at the Seamen’s Union, in 1971.

In 1963, by then an able seaman, Morgan moved to New Zealand to join the Union Steamship Company and promptly made the acquaintance of kindred spirit Pat Kelly, a feisty fellow Marxist, and his wife Cath. 

The Kellys’ son Max recalled at Morgan’s funeral that the two men met for the first time in the public bar of a Wellington hotel; he wasn’t sure whether it was the Terminus or the Post Office (both long gone). Between drinks, Pat Kelly would sell copies of the New Zealand Communist Party paper the People’s Voice.

The two became firm friends, confidantes and drinking mates, although Morgan, an enthusiastic boozer in his younger days, would renounce alcohol and cigarettes after a life-changing car accident at Paekākāriki in the early 1980s. 

The two men’s families also bonded closely, sharing holidays in the Kellys’ bach, an old Railways house, at Ohakune. Max Kelly recalled that the man the public knew as the leader of angry protest marches would play the clown at the Kelly children’s birthday parties. He was a mentor to Kelly’s sister Helen, who became president of the Council of Trade Unions before succumbing to cancer in 2016. 

After Pat Kelly’s death in 2004, Morgan placed an In Memoriam notice in The Dominion Post on his anniversary every year, in which he paid tribute to his former comrade and commented wryly on his deficiencies as a racing tipster. Both liked a punt on the horses.

In 1970, Morgan met Margaret “Maggie” Lee, a school dental nurse, while on an anti-Vietnam protest march in Auckland. By that time he had come ashore to take up an appointment as the union’s Lyttelton branch secretary. The two were married the following year and would later adopt a daughter, Jenny Katene. 

In the words of Annette King, Dave and Maggie Morgan made a formidable team, “fearless and committed”. For years they lived in a union-owned house in Austin St, Mt Victoria, which served as a social gathering place for the Left, and for which they paid $26 a week in rent – a fact exposed in 1989 by an angry chief Labour Court judge, Tom Goddard. 

In a withering judgment provoked by the union’s refusal to comply with an injunction ordering ferry crews back to work during an illegal strike, Goddard ordered sequestrators to seize the union’s assets – and for good measure, opened its finances to public scrutiny.

Goddard calculated that a true market rent for the Austin St house, which by accident or design was painted pink, would be at least $200 a week. But as McLoughlin pointed out in North and South, it was hardly a luxurious property – and this was long before Mt Victoria was gentrified. 

The family later moved to Masterton – ironically, almost as far from the sea as it’s possible to get in New Zealand – where Morgan lived a quiet life as the devoted patriarch of his whānau. 

He retired as national secretary of the union in 2003, three decades after stepping into shoes previously occupied by Bill “Pincher” Martin and, before Martin, the feared union strong man Fintan Patrick Walsh. In his last weeks, he joked that he wanted to be buried next to Walsh in Karori Cemetery, but with a taller headstone. 

Under Morgan’s leadership, the seamen were part of a hard core of Left-wing blue-collar unions – along with others representing meat workers, boilermakers, watersiders and truck drivers – that regarded themselves as upholding traditions of militancy, solidarity and class consciousness.

But with the economic upheavals of the 1980s, some old union alliances began to unravel. Morgan found himself at odds with his former friend and fellow communist Ken Douglas as the movement bitterly split over how best to maintain union strength and cohesion in the face of deregulation, globalisation, job losses and legislative changes that were seen as tilting the industrial playing field in favour of employers. 

By the time he retired, Morgan had observed not only a drastic decline in union power, but also the disintegration of the Soviet-led communist bloc from which he and many of his peers had drawn ideological inspiration.

But the socialist flame burned brightly to the end. His death notice finished with the union slogan “Solidarity Forever” – and at his funeral, mourners sang The Internationale, the anthem of the socialist Left. 

He left instructions for his ashes to be scattered at sea off Wellington Heads.

Sources: Stuff archives, Nga Taonga Sound and Vision, North and South, Maggie Morgan, Max Kelly, Annette King, Chris Eichbaum.

Stuff

Nation ‘$1b poorer’ if port leaves Auckland

With a working group’s third report on Port of Auckland’s future not available to the public, others are pushing ahead with their own analysis, Dileepa Fonseka reports.

A third port study will go before a Cabinet committee on Wednesday but on Tuesday Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a clear indication it wouldn’t be enough on its own to persuade him to support moving Auckland’s port to Northland.

“The report’s a useful contribution, but as I’ve said to you previously, I’ve got further questions I want answered.”

“This is a massive, massive move we’re talking about here. So you know, we’ll go through the process, but we haven’t made a decision to do it.”

Meanwhile another report into the future of Auckland’s port has been released. 

The NZEIR report calculates New Zealand would be $1b poorer if the Port of Auckland’s functions were taken up by either Northport or Tauranga. 

“Auckland is both the largest source of import demand in New Zealand, and the largest concentration of commercial activity,” says the report.

“An equally profitable port elsewhere, employing the same number of people, would have a similar direct effect on its local economy, but its wider economic effect would depend on how efficiently their customers’ exports and imports moved from the port to their doors.”

The use of diesel trains to transport goods from Northport to Auckland would emit 121,461 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 

“Longer and more frequent road or rail trips would be required to bring imports to their ultimate destination or to the port for exporting.”

Most of the costs of relocating the port would be borne by Auckland in terms of reduced consumption, higher prices, and longer wait times for freight. 

People and businesses in New Zealand’s largest city would see the cost of their imports go up by $549m if port operations moved to Northland or $626m if port operations moved to Tauranga, the report says. 

But the rest of the country would see the cost of their imports go down if the port’s business was taken up by Port of Tauranga or Northport.

Economist Laurence Kubiak, who authored the report, said this was because other ports, like Centreport in Wellington for example, would import more and goods would have to travel a shorter distance to get to consumers in those areas. 

Anticipating the report’s release 

Both Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones and Upper North Island Supply working group chair Wayne Brown told Newsroom last week they were looking forward to a possible release of the full report this week after Cabinet deliberations.

After details of the report leaked, Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff has bristled at its reported suggestion POAL could be taken off Auckland Council with only waterfront space as compensation, and Jones has called POAL CEO Tony Gibson a “recreant” – cowardly renegade – after details emerged that Jones warned Gibson not to put his head in a “political noose” by going up against NZ First on the port issue. 

Others have expressed concern at the mode shift that would be required from shippers of freight – who have been favouring trucks in greater numbers – in order to make a Northport option work. 

Supporters have lined up behind moving the port from its current location in Central Auckland too. 

RNZ reported former Prime Ministers John Key and Helen Clark were backing a “Waterfront 2029” to get rid of POAL and The New Zealand Herald reported National MP Nikki Kaye had expressed a preference for moving the port but wanted to explore a number of options including the Firth of Thames.