New vessel heralds the age of coastal shipping

The largest New Zealand-operated ship in many decades will be launched this month, signalling a vital expansion of domestic sea freight capacity. 

Pacifica Shipping will launch a new 700 TEU container ship, Spirit of Endurance, to carry high volumes of container cargo in domestic waters.

“This is a real step forward for the country’s shipping industry, which has had more than its share of setbacks over the past 15 years,” the company’s chief executive Rod Grout said.

The 130-metre ship will move around 1,000 containers each week between the ports of Auckland, Tauranga, Canterbury and Otago, handling domestic goods as well as import and export cargo.

Mr Grout said the vessel was well suited to the government’s ‘Sea Change’ initiative of moving 30 per cent of all freight by coastal ships by 2030.

“Moving goods by sea is the safest, cleanest and most efficient transport mode, a fact only lately acknowledged and acted on by policy planners.

“Its advantages are fuel efficiency, low carbon emissions and cost reductions for business efficiency,” he said.

According to Mr Grout, sea freight currently accounted for 15 per cent of total goods carried in New Zealand, about half of this on an ad-hoc basis by in-transit overseas ships, while Japan moves 41 per cent of its domestic freight by coastal ships.

“We have a lot to aspire to in terms of growth potential…but it will require more vessels linking our producer and consumer centres directly and not overly relying on Cook Strait for inter-island freight,” he said.

Nearly 2.5 million tonnes of domestic freight cross Cook Strait on trucks each year, with just one million tonnes moved on coastal ships.

He said this skewed transportation was untenable considering the mounting environmental damage, economic consequences and negative impacts on roads and communities.

He also called for hub-and-spoke cargo feeder networks around the coast to meet the trend of overseas ships getting bigger and visiting fewer ports less often.

“Our new vessel is equipped to meet this trend, as it uses existing port container cranes to load and unload all types of containers.

“Provided its service is not constrained by further subsidies to prop up competing land transport modes, we believe it will be the forerunner of more coastal vessels to come,” Mr Grout said.

The vessel, built in China this year, has a 17-knots service speed and a gross tonnage of 7,464 tonnes.

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