Seafarers rally over Maersk decision to pull New Zealand coastal service
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The Maersk Nadi and Maersk Nansha, both crewed by New Zealanders, were in service for less than a year before being cancelled.
Seafarers rallied in Wellington on Thursday, protesting the recent cancellation of the Coastal Connect container service by global shipping company Maersk.
Maritime Union of New Zealand Wellington branch secretary Jim King said those crew members had given up other jobs to work on Maersk vessels – and the company needed to be accountable for its actions.
He said supply chain issues were resulting in goods taking a long time to be imported, exported and moved around New Zealand.
King said building up dedicated New Zealand coastal shipping was an efficient, low-emissions way to keep the country moving.
Local coastal shipping would protect New Zealand from disruptions to the supply chain such as those experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic and the extreme weather events earlier in 2023, he said.
The union has proposed several measures to address the issues, including:
- Changes to the Maritime Transport Act to prioritise New Zealand-flagged and crewed ships on the New Zealand coast
- Government support for a New Zealand-owned coastal shipping operator to provide priority service for New Zealand ports and industry
- Training and high quality employment opportunities for New Zealanders in our own maritime industry.
Maersk said, when announcing that the Coastal Connect service would end, that it was not motivated by cost-cutting and that it would upgrade its trans-Tasman Polaris service to a weekly service.
It said the changes would enhance New Zealand supply chains with improved flexible services and better connections to overseas markets.
“We continue to invest in the New Zealand market with additional vessels being added to our network to limit impact from the current disruption, including an additional vessel on our J-star Service (connecting New Zealand with North East Asia) where we added a seventh vessel earlier this year,” a company spokesperson said.
“[We have also added] an additional (10th) vessel on the PANZ service (connecting New Zealand with the US West coast) and [are] upgrading the Polaris service to a three-vessel system.
“The key driver for the change is not cost but rather how we improve supply chain stability for our customers while offering more flexible network solutions.”