Just weeks after replacing its New Zealand coastal feeder ship with a larger vessel, the Swire-owned Pacifica Shipping is returning the original to service to operate a new link.

The 1100 teu Spirit of Canterbury ostensibly left the coast in mid-September when the 1700 teu Moana Chief took over Pacifica’s Auckland- Lyttelton- Nelson- Tauranga- Auckland service. At the time Swire New Zealand country manager Brodie Stevens said the company was adding capacity in response to growing domestic and international transhipment cargo demand.

Last week Maersk Line and subsidiary Hamburg Süd announced that as part of a plan to cease Southern Star service calls at the South Island port of Timaru, Pacifica will now operate Spirit of Canterbury on a new coastal feeder rotation of Tauranga- Timaru- Lyttelton- Timaru- Tauranga.

MSK/HSD use 5905TEU Rio-class vessels on Southern Star (NZ-South East Asia) and Rio de Janeiro made an inaugural Timaru call with considerable fanfare in late May, after PrimePort Timaru completed a major project to widen the port entrance channel.

However, calls were suspended in mid-August due to reduced seasonal demand.

Now the carriers say a combination of the new feeder and continuing calls by the OC1/Trident (ANZ-East Coast North America) service will provide Timaru with three weekly links to mainline services.

Timaru’s container terminal is operated by PrimePort’s strategic partner and 50% owner Port of Tauranga and saw throughput fall by around 10,000 TEU to 79,384 teu in 2018-19.