HB’s export economy depends upon two key enablers – seasonal labour to harvest and containers to ship our produce (and our light manufacturing products) out.

Our labour shortage impacting the horticulture sector is getting heaps of attention, as BayBuzz has already reported here and here.

We also raised the issue of a potential container shortage in this 16 November article by export expert Murray Painter – if we can harvest it, can we ship it?

Covid-generated disruption of international shipping and supply chains is the culprit.

In response to the Painter article, Napier Port chief executive Todd Dawson said:

“Yes, this is something we are watching and monitoring closely and are actively engaging with both shipping lines and cargo owners on to ensure that the lines are positioning equipment into NZ and the Hawke’s Bay early and in sufficient quantities to ensure cargo gets away.

We are not overly concerned about the lack of arrivals of ships, rather the positioning of equipment (containers) into NZ leading into our busy season, keeping in mind that the peak season for Auckland and Tauranga is now, but ours is general between March – July.

Both Auckland and Tauranga are experiencing issues currently with congestion. This is not impacting Napier Port currently; in fact we have capacity available that can be utilised to support the upper North Island at this time of year.”

More recently, Dawson had this to say, as reported by NBR:

“The congestion issues we’re seeing in the other North Island ports have had a flow-on effect of having Napier Port used as a capacity relief valve to bring transhipment volumes through Napier Port, equally for imports coming in through Napier Port and being fed back up to those areas of New Zealand where those ports typically service.

“We’re making the most of that opportunity as it presents itself but equally it plays a story we’ve been telling for some time about the latent capacity of the New Zealand port network and Napier’s ability to utilise the available capacity and also the rail network to feed the cargo back up to the population in those regions.

“Longer term, we’ve got some concerns about the international supply chain disruption with the shipping lines and the fact that New Zealand does require equipment to be positioned into the country to take exports out.”

He said while it wasn’t an issue yet, the port was keeping an eye on the horizon to make sure those shipping lines and customers were preparing adequately for the peak season.

Dawson said shipping congestion could become a major issue for the port in the next four to five months as the port hits peak volumes, particularly with an acute global shortage of shipping containers.”

It looks like some tense months ahead for HB exporters!

Meantime, forget about any imported Christmas whitewall or electronic gear you had in mind or on order!

Although, if you’re lucky, they might in one of 1,300 containers now being trucked south from Northport (requiring 2,600 road trips!), which is now handling its first overflow ship (its largest ever) from Auckland Port!

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