Industrial unrest at Ports of Auckland has played a part in Maersk’s schedule changes that will see its weekly Southern Star service call at Tauranga rather than Auckland.
The company’s Northern Star service will continue to call at Auckland. The “Two Stars” provide New Zealand-based shippers with direct access to the Asian hub ports of Port Klang and Tanjung Pelepas.
Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson was advised of the news by Maersk early this morning.
“Naturally, we are hugely disappointed,” he says. “The Southern Star was one of Auckland’s largest shipping services.”
The port company will lose 52 ship calls, 82,500 containers (123,600 TEU), and nearly $20m in revenue annually.
“Maersk have explained to us that the possibility of further industrial unrest has been central to their decision to shift the service to Tauranga.”
Mr Gibson said his worst fears had been realised: “We had already warned the union that their strike action, during one of the busiest times in the shipping schedule, could cost Ports of Auckland a major customer and threaten jobs.”
“However, despite these warnings, a very fair offer on the table and a further offer of a paid stop work meeting, the union proceeded with its strike over last weekend, has already given notice of another strike this Friday, and is continuing to signal the possibility of further strikes, saying publicly it will do ‘whatever it takes.’”
“Given the magnitude of this service loss we have decided to postpone mediation till later in the week,” Mr Gibson said. “We need time to work through the implications of the change in relation to the collective bargaining process.”
The service loss is effective from this week’s vessel, the Euro Max voyage 126N, which will now call Tauranga on Saturday 10 December.
Maersk Line New Zealand trade & Marketing Manager Dave Gulik said he did not expect a material change to total transit times for local exporters and importers.
“Most of the export cargoes we currently ship out of Auckland are coming out of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty region, and those exporters’ transport and logistics operations tend to be port-neutral,” Mr Gulik said.
“Imports coming into Auckland are generally destined for the major distribution hubs in South Auckland, which are served by Port of Tauranga’s inland MetroPort. Any change to total transit time one way or the other is likely to be a matter of hours at the most,” he said.
Mr Gulik said industrial unrest at Ports of Auckland had played a part in Maersk’s decision to alter the service.
“The security of their supply chain is of primary importance to our customers, so anything affecting that, or likely to affect that in the future, will come into the equation when we are deciding schedules,” he said.
Maersk currently operates the Northern Star and Southern Star services in conjunction with Malaysian Line MISC Berhad, which last month announced plans to exit the container shipping business in June next year.
Mr Gulik said Maersk intended to maintain the Two Stars in their present form after MISC withdrew, meaning Maersk’s New Zealand customers would continue to enjoy the same level of coverage and the same connections to the company’s global networks.