THE New Zealand government has committed NZ$30 million to boost the country’s coastal shipping capacity.

The government said the funds would “improve domestic shipping services, reduce emissions, improve efficiency and upgrade maritime infrastructure”.

NZ transport minister Michael Wood said the country is a step closer to a more resilient, competitive, and sustainable coastal shipping sector following the selection of preferred suppliers for new and enhanced coastal shipping services.

“Coastal shipping is a small but important part of the New Zealand freight system, which is why the government is investing in making coastal shipping a more viable alternative to strengthen and diversify our domestic supply chain, helping to secure New Zealand’s recovery from COVID-19,” Mr Wood said.

“As a lower emissions transport mode, investing in coastal shipping will also help us achieve our decarbonisation goals.”

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency worked with the wider freight industry (NZ Shipping Federation, Port Company CEO Group, National Road Carriers, KiwiRail, and Te Manatū Waka – Ministry of Transport), to select four applicants for co-investment in new and enhanced coastal shipping services through the Land Transport Programme (NLTP).

The four preferred suppliers are:

  • Coastal Bulk Shipping
  • Move International
  • Swire Shipping NZ
  • Aotearoa Shipping Alliance

Mr Wood said each of these four selected suppliers will bring at least one additional coastal shipping vessel into service, and together this will improve the resilience of the overall freight supply chain.

“With the freight industry’s support, these additional services will help to resolve immediate challenges to the coastal shipping and the wider freight sector, address some of the current issues facing the international and domestic supply chains and provide a platform for future growth across all modes with increases in capacity and capability for both new and existing bulk materials and containerised cargo,” Mr Wood said.

“The four preferred suppliers will invest over NZ$60 million through their proposals, resulting in combined investment in the sector of over NZ$90 million.”

Mr Wood said the funding was an important step towards better utilising the “blue highway”, improving New Zealand’s freight system and future-proofing its national supply chain.

“When the new services are fully operational, it is estimated they will remove around 35 million kilometres of truck travel from New Zealand’s roading network every year, reducing wear and tear and improving safety for road users, while at the same time creating new employment opportunities for mariners and supporting regional development. This will also support our commitment in the recently released Emissions Reduction Plan to reduce emissions from freight transport by 35 per cent by 2035,” Mr Wood said.

“In the meantime, we’re continuing work to mitigate supply chain problems caused by COVID-19, which includes increasing capacity through KiwiRail, extending the aviation support package so businesses can tap into international markets, and working with the sector to address issues as they arise.”

The Maritime Union of New Zealand weighed in on the funding saying it was a “game changer” for New Zealand shipping, and the “biggest turnaround for the industry this century”.

MUNZ national secretary Craig Harrison said the four new ships would have a substantial positive impact on New Zealand’s supply chain crisis, as well as providing environmental benefits.

Mr Harrison said it is essential the new ships are New Zealand flagged and New Zealand crewed to build resilience and capability in the shipping sector. He said after decades of neglect, New Zealand coastal shipping had turned a corner and could now begin to fulfil its potential.

Mr Harrison said further investment in training and skills for a new generation of New Zealand seafarers was an important aspect of rebuilding the industry. He said it is essential that a maritime trading nation like New Zealand had shipping capability and skilled seafarers in an increasingly volatile global situation.