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Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Nelson truck shipping link set to revolutionise inter-island freight transport

NEW ZEALAND – A multimillion-dollar “blue water” shipping route linking New Plymouth to Nelson is set to revolutionise freight transport between the North and South islands next year – over a decade after the idea was first floated.

The drive-on, drive-off truck service is set to take vehicles off the road, save 2000 tons of carbon emissions a year, and free up drivers in an industry facing massive labour shortages.

NZX-listed transport and logistics group Move Logistics accelerated its plan for the link after agreeing a $10 million co-investment with Waka Kotahi.

Move executive director Chris Dunphy said the service will be an industry first for coastal shipping in New Zealand.

Currently, the only options available for moving trucks between the North and South islands are via the Cook Strait ferries operating between Wellington and Picton.

Sailing times will be at 15 to 16 hours, slightly longer than the 13-14 hours it takes to drive between Nelson and New Plymouth, which includes a Cook Strait ferry sailing time of 3.5 hours.

However, Move said the time saving from its “blue water” alternative will deliver far greater efficiency in driving hours.

For example, a driver could travel from Auckland to New Plymouth, drop off a unit to be shipped south to Christchurch, pick up a unit that has come north from Christchurch via Nelson and return to Auckland within one shift.

Move will now buy and refit a quarter-ramp roll on/roll off vessel, with the first sailing expected to take place in 2023.

While it will initally operate between Nelson and New Plymouth, the service will be capable of calling into at least thirteen New Zealand ports, without the need for any new infrastructure.

Ross Dingle, Port Taranaki head of commercial, said they had been working with Move.

“We actively look at options to diversify our customer base and see the development of coastal shipping as a logical step, so we’re excited this service is expected to begin in 2023.”

Dingle said the port had berthing and storage facilities that can support a quarter ramp roll on/roll off vessel, and believed the service would create opportunities for Taranaki businesses.

The service would reduce the volume of trucks on the roads, help to lower emissions in the heavy transport sector, and aid freight to reach its destination quicker, Dingle added.

“We look forward to working with Move Logistics Group to ensure all necessary systems are in place to facilitate a sustainable coastal trade service.”

Port Nelson GM operations Matt McDonald said it was pleasing to see ongoing investment in coastal shipping options.

“The idea of a link between Nelson and New Plymouth has been around for some time so it will be great to see this get across the line. For Port Nelson it adds further diversity of revenue from our existing assets. We look forward to working with Move to bring the service into operation.”

McDonald said that since Waka Kotahi’s announcement (on their coastal shipping fund) the port has seen both new and existing coastal shipping operators are looking to invest in new tonnage.

“This will be good for Port Nelson as well as for our regional economy.”

This is not the first time a link has been proposed between the ports.

In 2009 the government awarded $250,000 to Port Taranaki to help fund a feasibility study into a western seaboard coastal shipping operation involving the ports of Bluff, Nelson, Greymouth, New Plymouth and Onehunga.

At the time it was described as a “blue water highway”.

In 2011, plans for a freight service connecting New Plymouth and Nelson were announced. That service was expected to be operating in July 2012.

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