The coastal container route between Eastland Port and Napier Port ended last week after successfully operating for three months supporting local businesses impacted by the closure of State Highway 2 between Napier and Wairoa.
During the three-month charter funded by the government, there were 18 voyages and 294 containers moved between the two East Coast ports.
233 containers were transported for the meat industry while 61 were for produce.
The coastal container service came with significant environmental benefits with ship freight emissions being less than 15% of its road freight equivalent.
Eastland Port Operations Manager Andy Kinsella said, “It has been great having containers moving through the port and knowing local businesses haven’t been put out of pocket by freight costs over the last two and a half months while the roads have been rebuilt.
“Unfortunately, this shipping service has come to an end for now with State Highway 2 reopening. However, I am certain coastal container shipping will return in the future once we complete our $60 million rebuild of Wharf 7 and Twin Berth Project.
“Wharf 7 has been built to withstand a one in 2,500-year earthquake so it is going to be a strong and reliable asset.
“It’s comforting to know we have all the gear and processes in place and on hand to get a service up and running instantly should our region get cut off from another catastrophic weather event.”
A team effort
“After hearing about the state of our roads two days after the cyclone hit we came up with the idea of utilising the blue highway through a coastal container service so we started to collate information and got in touch with potential interested businesses,” says Mr Kinsella.
“Financially, we wouldn’t have been able to get the service up and running without the support from the government.”
The support was by way of a $500,000 grant to get the necessary infrastructure in place and a $2.25m underwrite to Eastland Port for the charter of the Rangitata for three months.
On the 17th of March, just one day after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement, the first container was loaded onto the Rangitata and she set sail for Eastland Port embarking on her next stint servicing East Coast businesses.
“I’ll be the first to admit we were a little out of our depth given we stood the service up in a matter of weeks but were grateful to the New Zealand Port community who came to our aid with equipment which helped us get on our feet before ours arrived.
“We eventually got into a groove, as did our customers, and it worked really well.
“I do want to express my heartfelt thanks to our Eastland Port team, Coastal Bulk Shipping, the government, our customers and individuals who have been an integral part of this chapter in our port’s history.
“We have learnt a huge amount through this all and as we look into the future we are confident in our ability to adapt, innovate and create a sustainable service which supports our local community.”