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Customs Brokers Call for an Urgent Solution to Freight Problems

Mainfreight says KiwiRail needs to find an alternative way to get urgent freight from Auckland to Christchurch as fast as it can. Earthquake damage has left CentrePort in Wellington unable to load and unload container ships and has damaged the rail link to Christchurch, forcing trucks to take up the slack.

Thank Heavens somebody’s on the ball. But Mainfreight says the only route south, which starts at State Highway 7 will not be able to carry the massive increase in heavy traffic long-term. Mainfreight’s general manager, Don Braid, is on the line.

Hi, Mr. Braid.

Morning, Kim.

What would State Highway 70 usually carry in the form of trucks?

I think, normally, there’s 40 trucks a day. I think at the moment, it’s up to 700. And next week would be the biggest freight week of the year and it’s likely to get up over 1,000 trucks a day.

Oh, good lord. I mean, quite aside from the jams, that would damage the road considerably, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, and it’s not State Highway 1, it’s not built for that number of trucks. The congestion both down and back is a problem but the state of the road is not good either. So it’s not good for everybody to be moving just in time freight by road through State Highway 7.

So what’s your ideal solution?

Well, we’ve got no rail line and we’ve got no State Highway 1 and it could be out for some time. They’re suggesting it might be upwards of 18 months, maybe 2 years before that’s reinstated. So our view is that dedicated coastal shipping options are the way to go to compensate for the amount of freight that would have travelled by rail.

So coastal shipping from Auckland to Christchurch.

Yeah. I think that would be the best way to handle the freight that’s required in Christchurch and further south.

And have we got the ships for that? Can we do that?

We’ve got one dedicated coastal operator. We have a thing called cabotage in this country where we can run freight on internationally flagged vessels.

What do you call it?

Cabotage.

Cabotage?

Yeah, which allows for international freight vehicles to run on the coast. But they’re not dedicated, they don’t leave on the same day, they don’t arrive on the same day. And the supply chains that allow you and I to eat and drink regularly are just in time.

Therefore, we need dedicated coastal operators. We have one called Pacifica, and our view is that we need another one and KiwiRail would be best placed, with the supportive companies like Mainfreight, to help the congestion.

So what? KiwiRail buys a boat?

No, they don’t have to buy one. They can charter it. And they can charter that on a variable basis for the period of time that they need it. And with the support of companies like ourselves, then the cost is– it makes it viable.

Well because they wouldn’t it, they charter it because it’s a temporary solution, right?

Exactly.

And they would call it KiwiSail.

Well, maybe they would, yeah. Hopefully, it would move quicker than a sailboat.

Yeah. And that would be enough to solve the problem, that one extra boat?

Yeah, we think so. If it’s big enough and I think there’s enough vessels available around the world that could fulfill the requirements of freight movement. So I mean, we can still move freight on the international flagged vessels. We’ll still be able to move some road vehicles.

But we just don’t need to be moving that much by road on State Highway 7, and we’ve got to find what that alternative is, and it’s coastal shipping in our view.

No. Maybe the ferry should also go down to Christchurch.

They’re not capable, really. They’re really set up for short journey across the straight. And really it’s about a containerised vessel from Auckland, I think will take up the slack.

All right. You’re sounding a bit worried about this.

I think it’s quite serious. The supply lines into Christchurch and through the south are strenuous right now and I think we certainly need a solution. To lose State Highway 1 and the rail line at the same time is not good for the supply chain.

Thank you. Don Braid is Mainfreight’s general manager.

 

Source: Radio NZ

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