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28 April 2023

Port Nelson container capacity set to lift by a third

Port Nelson container capacity set to lift by a third

Port Nelson’s Chief Executive Hugh Morrison says recent increases in container shipping services through Port Nelson has the potential for container throughput to lift by a third compared with this time last year.

“Recent renewed commitment of the four shipping lines who service Nelson is great news for importers and exporters across Te Tauihu. It means greater schedule confidence and more container capacity ahead of forecast strong seasonal exports, including for apples and wine,” says Morrison.

He says shipping schedules have been highly volatile over the last few years due to the disruption of COVID-19.

“Exporters around the country have been finding it difficult to secure slots on vessels for their products, and have faced delays when those booked slots have been rolled over due to a vessel being delayed or cancelled. Nelson has been no different.”

“Over the last year, as COVID-19 impacts on shipping have lessened, international shipping services have returned to more reliable schedules and reduced prices. Unfortunately, in New Zealand these improvements seen overseas have been slower to materialise.

“Lack of resourcing and capacity constraints at the New Zealand ports that are key for imports, Auckland, Tauranga, and Lyttelton, have seen New Zealand a laggard in the recovery. However, we have started to see the benefits of these key ports working together with container lines to return to scheduled arrival times. More empty containers from these larger import ports are coming to us again, as a provincial exporting port.

“While we have been waiting for the shipping scheduling into the larger ports to stabilise, we have been working with our four key shipping lines MSC, Pacifica, Maersk, and ANL to support their ongoing commitment to our region.

“Just this month, Pacifica’s weekly service has moved from one tide to two tides. This means they will be here for 12 more hours each visit, potentially doubling the containers exchanged during each visit.

“Maersk has moved from a fortnightly service to a weekly service, this again doubles the container numbers moved by Maersk from previous years. Maersk’s Polaris service, a service between Melbourne and New Zealand, which includes Nelson, was launched in February, has also greatly improved shipping connections with Australia and the faster trans-shipment option through Lyttelton.

“Looking at just these two shipping lines alone we can see a capacity increase of approximately a third on 2022 volumes.”

Morrison says ANL and MSC have also remained committed to Nelson.

“MSC is working to return to regular weekly visits once schedules have stabilised at the key import ports. In addition we are now well into a trial period of bringing in larger MSC vessels that have the potential to increase capacity. This improvement in capacity and resilience comes as a result of the recent investment in the redeveloped Main Wharf North, the purchase of a 70-tonne bollard pull tug, and the new crane.

At the end of 2022 ANL was forced to stop its direct service into Nelson due to the challenge with their schedules around New Zealand ports. Their intention is to re-open this service once these schedules stabilise. In the meantime, ANL cargo has been moving on the Pacifica coastal service, supported by direct out-of-schedule visits by ANL vessels to bring in empty containers.

"Exporters and importers will hopefully see the benefits of this new capacity over the next few months.”

Morrison confirms that all shipping services coming into Port Nelson need to comply with noise restrictions recently established across all New Zealand ports.




For further information contact Jessica Ammundsen, Communications and Engagement Manager -