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Maersk Pulls NZ Coastal Service

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Maersk Nansha. Image: MUNZ

MAERSK intends to phase out its Coastal Connect service in New Zealand, after less than a year of operation.

In an advisory issued on Friday (17 March) Maersk said it had reviewed its ocean network in relation to the “ongoing disruptions” across New Zealand’s supply chain.

The review informed a network change that will see Coastal Connect withdrawn and another service upgraded.

Maersk initially launched the coastal service with a goal to reinforce New Zealand’s supply chain and improve schedule reliability.

It deployed containerships Maersk Nandi and Maersk Nansha on the service, calling ports of Auckland, Tauranga, Nelson, Lyttelton and Timaru.

But after reviewing its network, Maersk has announced the service will be phased during April this year.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand described the withdrawal of the service “as a step backwards” for New Zealand’s supply chain security.

MUNZ said the coastal service was considered a breakthrough in providing reliable services to New Zealand ports after significant disruption to shipping schedules during the pandemic.

“This continual market volatility is bad for New Zealand and will have a flow on effect to importers and exporters, and thus the whole economy,” MUNZ national secretary Craig Harrison said.

Maersk also announced it would upgrade its trans-Tasman Polaris service to a weekly service, effective from April.

The Polaris service connects New Zealand with Australia, calling ports of Melbourne, Auckland, Nelson, Timaru, Lyttelton and Melbourne. Containerships Trieste Trader, B Trader and Nicolai Maersk will operate on the service.

Mr Harrison said he believes New Zealand is at the bottom of the priority list for global shippers.

“If New Zealand does not get its act together with a national port strategy, we are going to see hubbing happening in Australia, and New Zealand ports further down the pecking order,” he said.

Mr Harrison described the Maersk decision as a “setback”, but noted there is still an overall positive trajectory for coastal shipping in New Zealand.

“We saw a number of new ships and services coming onto the New Zealand coast in the last year, largely due to government engaging with industry and having a plan which we haven’t had for decades.”

The union also reported the New Zealand crews of Maersk Nandi and Maersk Nansha will lose their jobs as the service is cancelled.

Mr Harrison said there is currently high demand for New Zealand seafarers and is hopeful the redundant crews will be re-employed in the industry.

He said MUNZ, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association intend to ask Maersk to provide training positions for New Zealand crew aboard the new services.

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