Export container load records set as Kotahi, Port of Tauranga and Maersk muscle up against freight jam

A big effort to push valuable primary exports through the global freight logjam is under way today as a New Zealand record for a single loading of containers was set at the Port of Tauranga.

More vessel capacity is also to be created at Tauranga and in the South Island as the long-term partnership of New Zealand’s largest supply chain collaboration between Kotahi and container shipping giant Maersk and the Tauranga port step up efforts to ease schedule slippage and loss of capacity.

A record lift of 5326 TEU (twenty foot equivalent) containers, including a record 1914 refrigerated boxes, has been loaded onto the Maersk Shams, which departs Tauranga today.

The record has been enabled by Maersk creating more room for New Zealand exports on the vessel, part of the shipping line’s Triple Star large vessel service, which for five years has called at Tauranga en route from Latin America to North Asia.

Kotahi chief executive David Ross said never before has this number of containers been loaded onto a vessel in one berthing at one port. Another record lift is scheduled at Tauranga on June 11 when the Sally Maersk, also a Triple Star service vessel, will tie up.

The record refrigerated volume is mainly dairy products, including value-add exports such as ingredients for medicines and sports nutrition, with prime meat cuts also being loaded.

“The April to June 2021 quarter is projected to present cargo volumes for Kotahi at around 75,000 TEU, which is 13 per cent higher than the same period last year. This is both growth and catching up on capacity lost in prior periods due to vessel schedule slippage,” Ross said.

It is peak primary export season and Ross said with capacity continuing to slip and containers slower to come back to New Zealand, the pressure is on exporters trying to get product away in certain timeframes demanded by their customers.

“Finding a spare vessel is difficult – they’re as scarce as hen’s teeth at the moment. If you lose capacity it slips into the next time period or sometimes disappears altogether so we needed to take action to get on top of this issue.

“We worked with Maersk as our strategic partner to look at ways we can address equipment shortfalls and capacity challenges and one of the actions we took is this one.

“They’ve made more space available for New Zealand cargo.”

More than 80 per cent of the record volume is from Kotahi customers.

Ross said the partnership has also addressed the challenge of increasing big vessel services to the South Island, where exports are starting to build up.

Two additional Maersk container vessels will call at South Island ports next month to lift Kotahi export dairy product.

They will clear cargo volume and are phased to reduce port congestion at key times, Ross said.

As previously reported, Maersk has also added a seventh vessel to its weekly Southern Star Service, and added Timaru as a permanent port call on this new rotation of Malaysia, Singapore, Brisbane, Sydney, Tauranga, Napier, Lyttelton, Timaru, Lyttelton, Port Chalmers, Malaysia.

Ross said the efforts showed the strength of long-term partnerships, which enabled key exporters and infrastructure and asset providers to work together for exporters.

Kotahi is a joint venture founded in 2011 between dairy exporter Fonterra and meat company Silver Fern Farms.

“Basically, it was put in place to build a resilient supply chain to deal with disrupted market conditions – 2011 was just after the GFC (global financial crisis), which was probably the last time we had significant disrupted conditions,” Ross said.

In 2014, Kotahi signed a long-term partnership with Maersk and the Port of Tauranga.

It also exports product from 50 other primary sector entities, including seafood and horticulture players.

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