CBAFF warns of high costs and logistical challenges of large container ships diverting to Northport

Media Release
3 December 2020


A large container ship due to arrive at Northland’s port on Sunday (6 December) is not the ‘silver bullet’ solution to get goods to Auckland in time for the Christmas market, says the freight forwarding industry body.  
The ANZEX ANL shipping line has announced its Constantinos P cargo vessel will stop at Northport at Whangarei, rather than its planned call at Ports of Auckland (POA), due to a backlog in ships being able to berth and unload at POA. It will be the largest ever ship to call at Northport, unloading an estimated 1300 containers. 
However, Rosemarie Dawson, chief executive of the Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association (CBAFF), said the decision would create major logistical challenges, incur significant additional costs for importers, leading to higher prices for consumers – and goods may still not make it to stores in time for Christmas. 
“While we welcome measures by shipping lines to help address the current challenges to imports into New Zealand, diverting ships to Northport is not the answer,” says Ms Dawson.  
“The rail link to Northport does not reopen until 11 January, so all these containers will need to be moved by road. Moving them will require at least 2,600 150km trips to Northland and back to Auckland, creating a lot more traffic, and safety issues on roads not designed for that kind of load. 
“This will also take capacity to move containers out of the Auckland market, potentially exacerbating the issues there.” 
Ms Dawson said the very significant additional costs of moving the containers from Northport, would be borne by importers, who would need to pass these costs on to their customers.  
As well as the additional distance travelled, trucks are likely to be travelling to Whangarei empty, incurring further costs for an unproductive journey. The sector also fears there may not be enough trucks to move the containers in a timely manner, so importers will also be hit by demurrage and detention – charges imposed by shipping lines when containers are not moved or returned within the permitted time. 
“The port congestion surcharge that shipping companies are applying in Auckland will pale into insignificance in comparison to these combined costs,” says Ms Dawson. 
“In theory, one truck can make two round trips a day between Auckland and Northland, so could move two containers a day – if everything runs smoothly. However, having consulted with the trucking sector, I know they have significant concerns about the ability of the Northport infrastructure to keep trucks flowing freely. 
“There may also be difficulties in finding sufficient drivers. There are strict limits to the hours drivers can work and the Northland/Auckland route requires linehaul as opposed to metro driving, it’s a different skillset.” 
CBAFF has called on shipping lines to extend the free period around detention on containers, to take account of the extraordinary situation in New Zealand. 
“We have also sought expert legal guidance on behalf of our freight forwarder members,” says Ms Dawson. “The advice is that they will need to pass all these significant extra charges on to the importers. Freight forwarders will only have recourse to insurance if they can’t recover these costs from their customers – and in that case, the insurers may act against the customers.” 

For further details please call Rosemarie Dawson, 021 656 781 or email admin