Pressure on NZ Ports set to stay for another ten days

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put global supply chains under intense pressure as it disrupts trade. 

New Zealand is working with trading partners to help ensure trade continues to flow unimpeded, to remove any existing restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies, to protect supply chains and to keep critical infrastructure such as air and seaports open. 

The whole country is now at Alert Level 2 and while this is great news the next seven to ten days will be incredibly busy for exports arriving into the country. 

There are a number of factors that combine to create significant delays in vessel arrival times into port as well as supply chain congestion in clearing containers, particularly at the Ports of Auckland. 

Vessels not only have to stick to their routes, but they are now facing significant restrictions on their normal workflow practices with cautious measurements being put in place to ensure that vessels are COVID-19 compliant. 

This means turnaround times are longer, and delays such as the soft form of industrial action in place in Australia are forcing shipping lines to make disruptive changes to normal vessel rotations. One of the outcomes is that some vessels may not stop at some ports. 

There’s also an increased number of vessels delayed into New Zealand. The ships are unable to arrive within their planned booking window and this is creating a bottleneck at ports as ships trying to get in and out as fast as possible. 

We’re also heading into peak season as the volume of import containers increases in September in the lead up to Christmas. It appears to have come a bit earlier this year and so those extra containers will now be a factor on the ports. 

Ports of Auckland have also been testing out their new automated straddle crane integration, it’s testing in a live environment and there naturally have been a few kinks to work out. There has been space on the Fergusson Container Terminal for this testing, however it means less space for the regular cargo that would go through. 

In addition, most of the container depots where export empty containers are uplifted from and import containers are de-hired too once emptied, have cut their operating hours in Auckland. It is a significant impediment for carriers trying to maximise productivity and has slowed empty de-hire turnarounds. 

As the country negotiates back into Level 2, there are still some requirements for social distancing so anticipate the next two weeks to be busy as all ports attempt to catch up to usual capacity, productivity and increase turnaround times.  

It is imperative SMEs are aware of all these factors that will have an impact on their abilities to get products into New Zealand.  

To optimise their exports, PIC businesses should contact their clients well in advance to schedule upcoming orders, while maintaining close relationships with their freight forwarding agents in New Zealand to be kept informed on the evolving situation. 

Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand can help you to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic by: 

  1. Providing information and/or answering questions you may have in relation to your current situation 
  1. Offering to contact anyone in New Zealand on your behalf to make things easier for you 
  1. Providing advice and information, conducting email introductions and referrals to anyone in the New Zealand market who may be helpful to you and your business, for example freight and customs bar coding. 

For assistance or more information, contact our trade team: 

Trade Development Manager – Aude Douyere    

Trade Development Officer – Riley Birtwistle

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