July 13th, 2012, 02:04 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
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Timaru Out, Nelson In
Port Nelson Ltd and the region's exporters are breathing a sigh of relief at news that the port is being added to a container service providing a direct link to Asia.
The giant shipping line Maersk has decided to drop Timaru from its schedule, but Nelson has come out a winner.
Following a review of all its New Zealand services, Maersk announced yesterday that it would be adding Nelson and Wellington to its two-loop weekly "butterfly service" to and from its Asian hub at Tanjung Pelepas, in Malaysia, and Singapore to create a "more commercially effective" service.
Port Nelson had already been advised that the existing trans-Tasman Maersk service was being cut, and was waiting to find out if it would figure in the company's revised schedules.
Port company chief executive Martin Byrne said he was "very happy" for the port "and very happy for exporters, too".
"It's a very good result. This service hooks through Tanjung Pelepas and Singapore, so it gives hubs basically anywhere."
There hadn't been a great volume of cargo using Maersk's trans-Tasman ships, and there would still be a weekly service operated by MSC, another big global carrier.
"You only have to look at the news of Timaru in the last 24 hours to understand it remains a volatile situation. Container lines aren't making any money, but we're certainly a lot better than we could have been," Mr Byrne said.
Nelson Pine Industries sales and marketing manager Paul Dalzell said today the announcement was "excellent news, very good for the shippers of the region".
Not only would it mean continued access for shipping direct from Port Nelson, but the link to Asia would provide a better global reach than the Australian run being phased out, he said.
"We'll make significant use of the service."
Sealord Group general manager of New Zealand fish, Doug Paulin, said the announcement was "very good news" for Sealord and other seafood exporters.
Mr Paulin said Nelson seafood exporters were a sizeable user of container services out of Nelson.
"There was a concerted effort by the port and a significant number of freighters out of Nelson to work with Maersk and lobby them to continue their service out of Nelson. There was definitely a risk it could have gone the other way."
The news was also welcomed by Heartland Fruit chairman John McCliskie but he warned: "It will come at a cost."
Mr McCliskie said up to 90 per cent of fruit exports were containerised, and growers had been alarmed to be told only last month that the service was in jeopardy.
"We all lobbied Maersk big time, and they reconsidered it."
However, Maersk had already alluded to increased charges as a payback.
"We're all pretty mindful that these costs can't necessarily be passed on to customers on the other side of the world with recessions at the moment. It's a bit of a warning that all ports in New Zealand need to remain competitive, including Nelson."
He said shipping was Nelson's only option, with "no way to economically truck product from here to Lyttelton and get it out".
Maersk already has nine ships on its "butterfly service" and is adding a 10th.
The new port rotation will be Tanjung Pelepas, Singapore, Tauranga, Wellington, Nelson, Lyttelton, Port Chalmers and returning to Tanjung Pelapas.
The first call to Nelson will be made by the Maersk Jubail, scheduled to arrive on August 16.
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