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Timaru port axes 50 jobs after losing container services

BUSINESSDESK: Prime Port Timaru, the most centrally located South Island port, will axe more than 50 jobs by the end of September after losing container shipping services in July, says the union whose members are affected.

Global shipping lines Maersk and Hamburg Sud pulled the plug on Prime Port, leaving Lyttelton Port, Port Chalmers and Nelson as the remaining South Island ports offering containerised freight services.

"Since Maersk and Hamburg Sud announced they were pulling out of the Timaru container trade our members have been left wondering about the extent of job losses on the waterfront," Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson says.

"The lack of a national ports strategy condemns ports to compete with one another for trade and the losers are Kiwi workers, ratepayers, and local businesses." 

Timaru had already lost about a third of its container volume because of Fonterra’s decision in 2009 to rail product from its Clandeboye plant in South Canterbury to Lyttelton as part of a rationalisation of the number of ports it used.

State-owned KiwiRail also pulled the plug on Timaru about three years ago.

Comments and questions
4

Interesting. The POA union debacle was often portrayed as the main reason they lost business. I always viewed this with much suspicion, however, as too little was made of the power the shipping companies exert over NZ port infrastructure. Competition is a good thing, but so is a cohesive national strategy. If only they could be viewed as bedfellows rather than polar opposites.

Common ownership of the ports will never happen unless its government mandated. While it would be best for NZ as whole for there to be a cohesive nz port strategy to negotiate the best terms with foreign shipping companies, there are two problems:

- there would then be no competition for domestic business; and
- in many cases the ports are owned by local government which would potentially suffer disastrous consequences (both financially and therefore politically) if their local port was subsequently 'rationalised' post-amalgamation as the merged entity decided which would be best suited for ongoing operation

a shame, Timaru is quite the place. Hopefully they can attract other industry - holcim etc to continue its viability.

A race to the bottom. I guess this means more container trucks on our narrow highways.