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NZ begging for coastal feeder solution

28 Dec 2011

A coastal hub-and-spoke feeder network directly linking major ports with regional centres is the ideal solution to New Zealand’s burgeoning freight task, says Pacifica Transport Group chief executive Steve Chapman, writes Iain MacIntyre.

With New Zealand’s total freight volume predicted to rise 220% by 2040, Mr Chapman says supply chain obstacles to efficiency already exist in and around major freight centres, as well as across Cook Strait, and these will become a serious liability unless coastal feeders are used more.

“The problem is that huge expenditure is needed to resolve future freight congestion on land, requiring far more investment in new infrastructure than the economy can reasonably afford.

“It is being compounded by rapidly-expanding cargo transhipment needs and a worsening imbalance of container flows caused by freight hubs in the north dominating traffic patterns.”

Mr Chapman says an expanded coastal network could readily handle millions of extra tonnes of freight with a high degree of efficiency and at comparatively low cost.

“Whereas a doubling or more of the freight task will put intolerable strain on road and inter-island rail resources, there would be no such difficulty for a larger fleet of coastal ships.

“Just half a dozen chartered vessels, each capable of carrying 600 loaded containers, would account for 65m tonnes of freight annually. That is about one-quarter of the country’s present freight task, so it would not be difficult to scale up to substantial volumes in a short timeframe.”

Twice-weekly return services would deliver the required frequency and capacity for exporters and importers moving cargoes between large hub ports and smaller regional centres.

However, Mr Chapman bemoans that the coastal solution is being “seriously under-utilised”, with no sign of a switch in New Zealand Government policy development from the current roading and rail focus to capitalise on the mode’s “potential for freight efficiency on many different levels”.

New Zealand Shipping Federation chief executive Jim Doyle also believes the regulatory environment in the country “favours international operators over domestic shipping companies”.

If international lines remain exempt from the Emissions Trading Scheme, Accident Compensation levies and aspects of labour laws, Mr Doyle says coastal shipping will never be able to compete on an equal playing field.

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