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New COVID Case Shows Urgent Need For Coastal Shipping Reform

A port worker’s positive test for COVID-19 has highlighted the need to limit the number of international ports in New Zealand and implement domestic coastal shipping on a hub and spoke model, says the Maritime Union of New Zealand.

Union National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the risk of having international ships carry domestic freight between all of New Zealand’s ports has been raised by the union repeatedly. “Right now nearly all of our domestic sea freight is carried by international ships running international crews who are not covered by New Zealand law. It means that every single one of our ports is an international border point and it puts our members and the public at risk.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Other nations run a small number of international ports as hubs for their protected domestic sea freight which give them greater control of their border security and of their supply chains.

“There’s a reason our international airports are limited to large sites that can resource strong border security, we should be doing the same with our ports. There should be two in the North Island and two in the South Island provisioned to be secure and safe points of entry for goods.

“All other cargo should be shifted by New Zealand flagged vessels that operate under our law and are staffed by people from our team of five million. This kind of arrangement is standard for many of our trading partners and is how we used to do things before the deregulation of the industry in the 1990’s.

“Domestically run coastal shipping offers greater border security, lower carbon emissions and road congestion, more economic security and stronger regional supply chains.

“We’ve been talking to the government about this for a while and both Labour and the Greens have repeatedly backed the need to strengthen New Zealand flagged coastal shipping. It’s time to accelerate that change.”

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