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Bigger ships to ply NZ-Asia trade route

NZN 12/07/2016 Pattrick Smellie

The Kotahi joint venture between Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms is launching a new weekly service to Asian export markets using the largest container ships ever to call at a New Zealand port.

The service will operate through the Port of Tauranga, where a $350-million port expansion and dredging operation will allow visits by a ship capable of carrying more than twice the usual number of containers seen on cargo ships operating through New Zealand.

Ships with a capacity of 9500 TEUs - 20-foot container equivalents - will now be calling at Tauranga on their way from the west coast of South America before heading to ports in north Asia.

The new route requires the Maersk ships to divert to New Zealand before heading to destinations in China, Japan, and Korea, among others.

The South American and New Zealand cargoes are complementary primary produce loads requiring refrigeration.

The new service will effectively replace the current dedicated New Zealand-Asia fortnightly Triple Star service, Kotahi chief executive David Ross told BusinessDesk.

However, cost savings are not a feature of the improved timetable.

Instead, the new route represented an investment in a sustainable and more regular service for New Zealand exporters, Mr Ross said.

The ships were more fuel-efficient than the 2000 to 4500 TEU-sized vessels and would cut carbon emissions between New Zealand and Asian ports by around 22 per cent.

However, even at 9500 TEUs, the new ships servicing Tauranga are dwarfed by 18,000 TEU container ships commonly in use on Northern Hemisphere routes.

Mr Ross said Kotahi didn't expect the route to attract any more cargo than already moved on the Triple Star service at first, although he expected it would begin to attract new sources of freight over time.

Kotahi provides export services for more than 40 companies, exporting a wide range of primary and other products to some 440 ports around the globe.

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