After turning away a container ship due to coronavirus risk over the weekend, Port Nelson reacted to media questions. Port Nelson chief executive Hugh Morrison said activity at the port was strong. "The port is an essential service and primary industry is an essential service ... as a consequence the Port continues to be very busy.”
Morrison said the Mediterranean Shipping Company container vessel Cali bypassed Nelson on Saturday due to concerns over the covid-19 status of the vessel related to a recent crew change. It is understood the cargo from this vessel will be re-routed back to Nelson.
Morrison said no changes to staffing levels or service levels were planned at the port at this stage. However, one area of uncertainty was the forestry sector, which is not listed as an essential service.
Delivery of containers to the apple and kiwifruit exporters and others is continuing and returned full containers are being received. Wine exports remain strong. To further support what is expected to be a bumper apple harvest, Morrison said a key exporter was looking to bring an additional vessel into port mid-April to upload apples.
Shippers struggle to move freight
In general, freight forwarders say finding containers and space on planes and ships is getting harder and costlier, as the coronavirus disrupts global networks. Sources say an airline - freighting in a consignment of health products had to pay four times the normal rate, as capacity shrank with airlines cutting flights.
Another is struggling to get building materials on a ship from the United States, as shipping companies shuffle routes and sailings to adjust to changing trade volumes. While major exporters like the kiwifruit industry and dairy co-operative Fonterra have large locked-in shipping arrangements, others are having to wait for space as perishable exports take priority.