Major boost for South Island exporters

17 April 2023

One of the world's largest shipping lines, Maersk, and Port Otago announced a major change this week, to how Maersk's Trans-Tasman Polaris service will be handled at Port Otago.

The newly-introduced Polaris service will call at Port Chalmers weekly – effective this month – to meet demand from South Island importers and exporters.

The value of this weekly service has been significantly boosted with today's announcement that Port Otago's unions – Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) – have agreed to work additional hours to turn vessels around more quickly, increasing the efficiency of the service, further.

Port Otago Commercial Manager Craig Usher: "I'm proud of our kaimahi (team) for stepping up to make this happen. It's a much needed leg-up for our South Island exporters during their peak season, as they will get more cargo to market and faster. And it will keep our Port business healthy, by helping a key shipping partner clear congestion.

"The rest of the world is returning to normal shipping flows, post Covid-created congestion. But New Zealand is taking longer, related to our backlog of cargo and nationwide labour shortages."

Maersk Regional Head of Market, Oceania, My Therese Blank says, "Ocean transport is key to the New Zealand economy, and we are pleased to continue to deliver improved supply chain solutions to our customers. We are grateful for the strong local relationships and support from Port Otago to enable this improved network with speed. During the past two years, we have made significant investments to our New Zealand network to keep the country's supply chain moving. With the re-launch of the Polaris service and this week's announcement to add a weekly port call at Port Otago, we will improve the supply chain stability, while offering enhanced product flexibility for our New Zealand customers via connections at Port Otago to our New Zealand network and in Melbourne to our Australia ocean network."

Mr Usher says the unions were proactive in working with the company to shape up a workable plan for all parties. "Our teams will work 10-hour shifts, rather than the traditional eight-hour shifts, so we can provide additional discharge and loading capacity throughout the week. This allows us to better match our limited people resources with the key task of turning vessels around as quickly as possible."

The Polaris service will call into Port Chalmers every Thursday. In addition to providing a Trans-Tasman link, it also provides an internal tranship service (mostly chilled product) to and from Otago and Nelson/Canterbury.

The first vessel to be serviced under the new service is due on Thursday 27 April. Maersk also operates the weekly OC1 service, which arrives on Saturdays, and the Southern Star service, arrival day Sunday.

Mr Usher: "The alignment of these services will go a long way to clearing the export backlog for both our exporters and Maersk, and providing largely predictable work patterns for our port and our people."