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.

Automation problems behind Auckland port delays – wharfie

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 18 November 2020 Share this 

An Auckland wharfie estimates Ports of Auckland is half as efficient as it used to be because of problems switching to an automated system to load and unload freight containers.

Some ships are waiting up to 12 days to unload at the port, and many retailers fear their shelves will not be full as they approach the festive season.

Listen to the full report here

On Tuesday, Ports of Auckland general manager of communications Matt Ball told Checkpoint Covid-19 had caused delays to the full roll-out of automation, but he said the system was working efficiently and was not to blame for the problems.

Ball also said the ports were short of about 50 staff, including crane drivers, straddle operators and lashers. He said the company’s performance at the moment was not good enough.

A worker with decades of experience at the Auckland port, who Checkpoint has kept anonymous to protect his identity, said the company was not being upfront about problems with automation, and customers were getting a raw deal.

“Before automation the Ports of Auckland regularly got best performing port in Oceania. Since automations kicked in, it hasn’t. So I can only put it down to automation and the lack of workability with the system,” he said.

“Covid is a very convenient excuse. They had problems with automation long before Covid kicked in.”

In a statement, Ball said automation was going well, but the worker who spoke to Checkpoint disagreed.

“They’ve got issues with communication between the crane builders and the Ports of Auckland. The software packages – numerous times they have pushed back the go-live dates because the system is just not working. Automation is a major problem.”

“They’ve split the terminal in half, effectively using one half for storage for the automated straddles and the other half for man straddles. So when the auto straddles aren’t working properly you’ve got half a terminal that can be accessed.

“It’s not just the straddles. They’ve got three new cranes down the end of the berth they’re having issues with. They can really only use one crane at a time when they’re discharging the ship because if they try to use all three, the software shuts down.

“Basically, once they’ve discharged the ship they then have to turn around and move the ship round to the other, what we’ll term, older cranes, so that they can load them.

“So it’s double handling and moving ships. It’s crazy.”

Efficiency at the port was not that good, he said. “Fifty percent, if that, on what it used to be.”

Acknowledging the understaffing problem, he said: “The whole system breaks down if you just don’t have the guys to do it.”

Retailers are desperate to get stock as the Christmas shopping season begins. The wharfie said at this time of year the service provided by Ports of Auckland was “sh–“.

“If I was a business owner waiting for a container, I’d be furious.”

He said he was angry to hear what Ball had told Checkpoint about the port’s problems.

“It doesn’t matter what I say. It doesn’t matter what other people say. The company will say that’s not true.

“I think the time has come where the port has got to be answerable to the people of Auckland. They seem to be a Teflon-coated company, or they think they are. They have a responsibility to people.

“I used to be a proud water-sider.”

He said more workers would help solve the situation, but trying to do that before Christmas would be problematic.

“Do you train them up quickly to get them onsite, in which case then do you have non-competent workers working there just to fill the void?

“Look at the history in the last two years, you’ve had two deaths. I would be scared, I wouldn’t want to be working in an environment where you’ve got people working beside me that don’t have … the experience, and experience speaks volumes down there.

“Will it be fixed before Christmas? I honestly couldn’t answer that… the software system, unless they can get that up and running, I can’t see it happening.

“The ports have brought this on themselves really, and it’s a shame.”

Ports of Auckland’s board chair, the chief executive, and the minister for infrastructure all declined to be interviewed by Checkpoint.

Ports of Auckland said it was working with the Ministry of Transport to resolve the backlog.

The ministry also declined an interview, but in a statement said it was leading a cross-agency group of government officials who were watching the situation closely.

It acknowledged heavy congestion of containerised shipping, particularly at the Ports of Auckland, where there had been “delays due to staff shortages and a recent fatality of a port worker”.

Congestion at Asian and Australian ports has added to the problem, it said, and there was limited capacity to shift the containers to rail and road freight.

The ministry said the International Air Freight Scheme was being used to import time-sensitive, critical goods, including medicines.

The Supply Chain Interagency Group is comprised of the Ministry of Transport, Maritime New Zealand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry for Primary Industries, and NZ Trade and Enterprise.

Supply Chain On Brink Of Overload Says National Road Carriers

Thursday, 19 November 2020, 4:34 pm
Press Release: National Road Carriers

The New Zealand supply chain is on the brink of overload and it looks like the upcoming peak imports season may push it over the edge says National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO David Aitken.

“Worldwide supply chains are in disarray,” says Mr Aitken. “The current pandemic affects everything, and the transport and logistics sector is in the thick of it. Bigger and better resourced countries have higher levels of critical infrastructure to cope with this, but it does not take much to bring New Zealand Inc. to its knees. Shipping companies and ports across the country are already struggling to keep up with consumer demand and the worst is yet to come.”

Mr Aitken says the problems have been brought about by a combination of factors including booming exports from North Asia and not enough vessels, industrial action across the Tasman causing shipping delays of up to eight weeks, COVID-19 and Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga facing some major challenges of their own. With berth schedules currently suspended at Ports of Auckland, not to mention the introduction of automation and staff shortages, and more vessels docking at Ports of Tauranga, receival and delivery times are constantly changing at both ports with little or no notice.

Mr Aitken also says airfreight schedules are not what they once were. “There are few passenger planes arriving with freight in their holds. The airfreight that does arrive is much more expensive. That urgent part you needed from the warehouse in Singapore is not available now. It will be shipped by sea and arrive in six weeks. If you need it in a hurry for Christmas, then you should have ordered it in October.

“Consumers and producers cannot count on getting what they want when they were used to having it. Not planning ahead will have consequences because the stock not ordered early will not be available on time.”

He says the transport sector is bearing the brunt of these issues and is facing big challenges. Road transport is the one thing that binds the whole machine together but operators are struggling with lost capacity, poor productivity and combined truck and administration costs.

“If it were not for the trucking industry, the Ports would close within days. By association, so would rail, and container depots because with no throughput the shipping lines would soon bypass New Zealand altogether. Importers and exporters would suffer terribly and so would the economy.

“The road transport industry is carrying and supporting the whole supply chain and working alongside sea, air and rail freight to keep the country moving. If you’ve got it, a truck delivered it.”

Mr Aitken says the supply chain industry – the Ports, the empty container yards and the freight industry – need to work together to understand each other’s issues and communicate better.

“There needs to be clarity around roles and responsibilities and we need to stop blaming each other, which brings about the increased costs to the carrier when it’s no one sector’s fault. Communication needs to improve and, when there is an issue, we need to identify it quickly and talk to the people who know how to fix it. Better alert systems need to be put in place.

“Unfortunately instead of working in with the road transport industry, the Ports and empty container yards are adding costs and constraints like reducing the free time for containers in their yards, adding penalties for non-delivery and increasing vehicle booking system (VBS) costs all when we need to reduce the pressure on the supply-chain. These network providers need to talk to the carriers who keep them afloat and engage some very simple but very effective measures.

“Currently all the costs fall on the carriers and that will filter down to the consumer because the carrier cannot wear those mounting costs any longer. This will make New Zealand less competitive on a global scale and, with failing imports on the horizon, a lack of co-operation between supply chain sector parties will be to blame when the system overloads and stops completely.”

KiwiRail looks into easing congested freight

KiwiRail is working around the clock to improve the movement of freight to and from the country’s two biggest ports, Auckland and Tauranga, which are congested.No caption

The domestic supply chain is congested, with industrial action at Australian ports and disruption in other key markets, combined with the annual pre-Christmas freight rush and peak export season.

KiwiRail has increased its freight service between Auckland and Tauranga and is ready to put on more services between Wellington and Auckland.

Chief executive Greg Miller said rail is the last major part in the supply chain.

”We are releasing a lot more train allocations and increasing capacity to help de-congest the supply chain to try and get products to market pre-Christmas. We have increased the available capacity between Auckland and Tauranga by 20 percent in the last two weeks.”

Miller said port companies in Auckland and Wellington are doing all they can to reduce congestion.

He said there is more customers can do to speed up the process.

”We are asking all freight forwarders to clear their containers from inland depots as quickly as practical.

”Notification of container arrivals is something that everybody is discussing and the advanced shipping intel is getting out there but we are asking all truck companies and international forwarders to clear their cargoes as soon as they possibly can,” he said.

A shortage of containers could spell problems for this country’s exporters as congestion at ports slows the supply chain.

Miller said delays in inbound cargo cause a flow-on effect meaning fewer containers are available for use to export goods.

”There are challenges of empty containers being available for exporters because of the inbound effect. So in the supply chain if you get something like a Covid or an industrial issue you can very quickly get delays that ripple up and down the supply chain.

”So that is why we need to work in a co-ordinated way with everybody.”

Miller said it could take some time before freight movements are back to a more normal level.

KiwiRail and CentrePort in Wellington are trying to come up with ways to work together to help relieve the pressure.

CentrePort chief executive Derek Nind said his port is ready to play its part by trying to ensure that customers do not face delays of up to three months in having their freight delivered.

”CentrePort has the capacity to process additional cargo from ships unloading in Wellington. Working with KiwiRail, the freight would be put on northbound trains to get to their ultimate destination in a timely manner,” he said.

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

Wallenius Marine develops world’s largest wind-powered vessel to slash shipping emissions

Swedish shipping company Wallenius Marine is developing a ship called Oceanbird, which could transport 7,000 cars and trucks across the Atlantic propelled only by the wind.

The concept, which is essentially an outsized sailboat, would be twice as high as the largest comparable vessel due to the five 80-metre-tall sails that protrude from its hull.

These purportedly would make it the world’s largest wind-powered vessel, capable of travelling across the ocean to the US at a speed of 10 knots and with a total journey time of 12 days.

Oceanbird will be the world's largest wind-powered vessel
Wallenius Marine claims that Oceanbird will be the world’s largest wind-powered vessel

According to Wallenius Marine, this is only four days longer than a carrier powered by fossil fuel while emitting 90 per cent less CO2 in the process.

Developed in collaboration with Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology and naval research institute SSPA, the Oceanbird project hopes to mitigate the environmental impact of maritime freight transport, which accounts for all but 10 per cent of trade in the whole world.

In 2018 alone, the shipping industry emitted 937 million tonnes of CO2, which is more than all of Germany. If it were a country, the sector would be the sixth-largest emitter in the world, just behind Japan.Related storyRolls-Royce touts remote-controlled cargo ship as “future of the maritime industry”

“We only have one planet and it’s important that we take responsibility and ensure that this planet will be a good place to live for future generations,” said Wallenius Marine’s COO Per Tunell.

“Shipping plays a very important role in today’s society but it’s also a large contributor to harmful emissions and that cannot continue, so we need to act.”

In order to try and rival the speed of an engine-powered ship, the Oceanbird would make use of wingsails rather than traditional fabric sails. These resemble solid fins made of steel and various composites, much like the wings of an airplane.

Wallenius Marine develops Oceanbird as world's largest wind-powered vessel
The ship is propelled forwards by five wingsails

“Airplane wings are asymmetrical in profile because they should only produce a lift upwards,” explained the ship’s naval architect Carl-Johan Söder.

“But our wings are symmetrical because we should be able to produce lift regardless of if you have wind coming in from the port tack [left side] or the starboard tack [right side of the ship]. The wings can rotate 360 degrees so you can optimise the angle depending on the wind direction relative to the ship.”

They are also telescopic, meaning they could be retracted to 60 metres in order to pass under bridges and mitigate turbulence caused by strong winds.

Wallenius Marine develops Oceanbird as world's largest wind-powered vessel
It could transport 7,000 vehicles

When the sails are at their tallest and propped up on the ship’s hull, they would reach up to 105 metres above the waterline. In comparison, a regular sailboat reaches only up to 30 to 35 metres into the air.

“No part of our sail is lower than 30 metres so we are using a piece of the atmospheric boundary layer above the ocean, where basically people have not been before,” said Jakob Kuttenkeuler, a professor in naval architecture at KTH.

“Airplanes are above and boats are below. So we’ve put quite a lot of effort into measuring the atmospheric boundary layer.”

Wallenius Marine develops Oceanbird as world's largest wind-powered vessel
Wallenius Marine hopes to build a fully functioning Oceanbird by 2024

Wallenius Marine attached sensors to its existing vessels in order to measure how the wind direction and velocity changes at such heights, in order to optimise both the wingsails as well as the fins at the bottom of the hull.

These can be moved against the direction of the wind, in order to prevent the boat from drifting off course.

For emergencies and manoeuvring in and out of ports, the ship would also be equipped with an auxiliary motor, which Wallenius Marine claim runs on clean energy.

Oceanbird will be the world's largest wind-powered vessel
Unlike the wings of an airplane, the wingsails are symmetrical

At the moment, the ship is still in the prototyping stage, with a seven-metre tall model set to be trialled in Stockholm’s harbour to gather data and optimise its performance and aerodynamics.

But the company says it could be taking orders from 2021 with the aim to deliver the first, complete vessel by the end of 2024.

Wallenius Marine develops Oceanbird as world's largest wind-powered vessel
The sails reach up to 80 metres high

Ireland’s B9 Shipping and French start-up Neoline have developed similar designs for cargo ships, which make use of tall fabric sails to harness wind power.

Neoline is already planning to establish a new shipping route between Saint-Nazaire in western France and the East Coast of the US by 2022 and has signed a development deal with Renault to look at using its ships to transport the manufacturer’s cars.

Another Swedish company, X Shore, has recently released an electric boat for private passenger travel in the hopes of bringing emission-free maritime travel to a broader market.

Trucking Industry Looks Forward To Working With New Transport Minister

Monday, 2 November 2020, 2:08 pm
Press Release: Road Transport Forum

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett says the trucking industry congratulates Michael Wood, who has been today announced as Minister of Transport, and he looks forward to working with him on the critical issues and opportunities ahead.

“This is an important portfolio so we are pleased to see Minister Wood who has a background and interest in it,” Leggett says.

“Roads are the lifeblood of the economy and we believe the trucking industry will be a strong contributor to recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 has highlighted a critical need for better understanding by Government and officials about how the global supply chain works and how that flows through to moving goods into, out of, and around New Zealand. There are some significant supply chain issues ahead and we will be asking the Government for immediate attention to this.

“As the Government launches its recovery plans for Covid-19, we look forward to being part of that. We do not produce everything in New Zealand and we rely on the global supply chain, so free movement of goods is essential to a healthy trucking industry.

“We will be sending a briefing to the incoming Minister regarding all the components we believe are important to ensuring the New Zealand economy can rely on the flow of exports and imports, and New Zealanders can get the things they need every day in a timely and affordable way. We will release that briefing in due course.”

Leggett thanked the outgoing Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, for his work in the portfolio and commitment to open dialogue with the industry.

About Road Transport Forum New Zealand (RTF)

RTF provides unified national representation for several regional trucking associations. RTF members include Road Transport Association NZ, National Road Carriers, and NZ Trucking Association. The affiliated representation of the RTF is about 3,000 individual road transport companies which in turn, operate 16-18,000 trucks involved in road freight transport, as well as companies that provide services allied to road freight transport.

The road freight transport industry employs 32,868 people (2.0% of the workforce), has a gross annual turnover of $6 billion, and transports 93% of the total tonnes of freight moved in New Zealand.

New Zealand urgently needs to focus on supply chain

The global effects of Covid-19 are putting real pressure on the New Zealand supply chain, economist Cameron Bagrie told the road freight transport industry this week.

Covid-19 meant no industry conference this year, so the Road Transport Forum invited Cameron to give us one of his popular industry updates via Zoom.

There was good news and bad news, and Cameron is pretty good at looking at how you can turn the bad news into good news. But there is no escaping there is pain ahead as we watch parts of Europe and the UK shut down again for a second autumn/winter wave of Covid.

What Cameron told us is what we are hearing across the board, and we are trying to get Government to listen. If for example, there is a Covid-19 vaccine and New Zealand is able to secure some, the supply chain is not in place to get it here and distribute it.

While exports are still working for New Zealand, imports are going down and sourcing goods is becoming a problem.

Cameron says people are talking about demand when they should be talking about supply – Covid is not supply friendly and “the Reserve Bank can’t fix supply chains”.

New Zealand is a small market to service and so is never going to be at the top of the queue. And while we can do a lot for ourselves, we are reliant on all manner of goods coming into the country to let us do that. When securing essential items becomes impossible, what’s the plan?

Some urgent thinking needs to go into managing this growing and critical risk and looking at how New Zealand can boost capability locally and fast.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to goods only. Migration numbers have gone from booming to collapse which creates another point of vulnerability for New Zealand. There have been years of underinvestment in key skills and capability because we could always import them from overseas, Cameron says. But to get the economy moving in areas such as infrastructure, or to manufacture locally what we can no longer source from off shore, we are woefully short of expertise.

In the spirit of never letting a good disaster go to waste, Covid-19 presents opportunities for some.

“Think small to stand tall,” Cameron says. While the macro-economy is beyond the control of individual businesses, focus with a ruthless obsession on all the little business levers. Get up every day and make a small improvement and over a couple of months, the dial will start to move in the right direction.

While human instinct may be to hunker down in bad economic times, the people being rewarded in the Covid world are those taking risks and there is a growing wedge between firms that are adaptive and those that are not.

Covid-19 is a bit of a lightning rod for rapid changes that were already occurring. People working from home, for example, was starting to happen but became the only option during lockdown. The changes that have come with that means distribution moving from city centres to suburban areas as people start to buy in the suburbs where they are working, rather than the central business district where their company may have been located.

There is also pressure in an economic downturn to cut prices but if items are in short supply, or can’t be sourced, no sensible business is going to do that. The reverse is more likely.

Cameron wants to see both the Government and businesses take more risks and embrace technology and change. He would prefer the Government out there spending on critical infrastructure and the Reserve Bank doing a lot less. He is critical of the Reserve Bank driving down interest rates and says all this will do is widen the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in our society by making housing affordability worse.

He had some strong advice for the RTF too and that was to keep making some noise on the government front as there is not enough representation for small and medium sized businesses.

“You are going to be getting into a bit of a dog fight, but it will be needed,” he said.

As we wait for the new Government to be formed, we are certainly gearing up to represent our essential part of the supply chain that is going to keep New Zealand moving in any kind of Covid-19 response and recovery.

We recorded Cameron Bagrie’s presentation and as this is just a snapshot, it is well worth viewing here.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum