As the New Zealand apple export season hots up Port Nelson (PNL) is running at full capacity reshuffling the port and carefully managing space. The full capacity of the port is 2700 full containers and 5000 empties.
Port Nelson handles approximately 10,200 TEU of apples each calendar year. Cold store capacity in Nelson and Motueka has increased the last few years which extends the apple season from March to July and even into August.
“Providing capacity to store and operate over the fruit season is our biggest challenge. We frequently find ourselves combining two stacks by filling up the separating roadway at the port to accommodate the increase in cargo volume. This increases capacity and reduces manoeuvrability, it is a considerable logistical exercise,” explains Jonny Cook, Container Operations Manager at Port Nelson. (photo right)
To help combat this challenge, the Port continues to invest in its infrastructure including purchasing a new Liebherr crane. The increased lifting capability of the new crane from one 20-foot container to two will significantly reduce the number of crane movements at the Port during apple season. “Maintaining an on-schedule service for exporters requires the port and shipping lines to address several challenges. These include managing the impact of shipping delays where any delay causes a backlog of cargo onsite that prevents Port Nelson from receiving scheduled export containers, providing sufficient power supply and spaces for reefer cargo, ensuring sufficient empty reefer containers are available, and ensuring repair parts are available for any damaged reefer units.”
Having a good relationship with the shipping companies helps to keep things running smoothly at the port.
MSC is one of the major carriers of apples out of Nelson port. The weekly, year-round Kiwi Express service provides exporters and importers with a consistent service that runs not only through the apple season but throughout the year. This provides MSC clients with a dedicated and reliable liner service into Nelson - week in, week out.
Port Nelson’s relationship with the MSC New Zealand team has strengthened over the years as the process changes have adapted to meet market requirements. MSC’s NZ operations team and the PNL operations and depot team are in weekly phone calls, as well as developing reports to assist with managing equipment. Port Nelson has needed to adapt frequently to meet MSC’s needs with shipping and market growth.
“MSC expectations are very high, Port Nelson continues to adapt and meet these expectations overcoming challenges on both sides in the ever-changing shipping game. Adding frequent face-to-face meetings with the MSC Christchurch office has further strengthened the relationship which can be difficult when working from Fremantle or Europe under quite different time zones.”
MSC always looks at all options when a challenge comes forward, explains Jonny. “This adaptability does provide challenges, but it also ensures that the cargo owners from Te Tauihu (Top of the South) can be confident they are able to ship their cargo. With Port Nelson’s purpose of ‘facilitating regional prosperity’ always in our operating mode, this absolutely aligns with our joint goals and is something we are able to advise customers whenever they question the shipping routes from/to Nelson.”
MSC has been calling into Nelson for 20 years, with the first port call taking place in early 2001. For much of this time, MSC has been working with all importers and exporters in Nelson, including the regions’ apple growers and exporters. This has allowed MSC to form strong relationships with shippers, developing a deep understanding of their business and providing solutions to their logistical requirements.
MSC’s head office in New Zealand is located in Christchurch. This office oversees all the national functions of the company and has 60 employees working on the ground. It is home to MSC’s key apple management team consisting of sales, operations, customer services, and documentation contacts.
“With Nelson being so close to Christchurch, this allows for frequent face-to-face meetings between our clients and MSC staff,” according to MSC New Zealand General Manager, Steve Wright. (photo right)
“In addition to our Christchurch office, MSC also has offices located in the north at Auckland and Tauranga, with additional representation of staff in Napier. With Napier also a major growing region in New Zealand for apples, having a local MSC presence there is of extra benefit for exporters.”
The proximity of Nelson’s port to the growing regions makes it a perfect fit. Apples are grown not far from the port - some growing areas are within 50km. This means apples can be picked, prepared for export, loaded into reefer containers, and quickly transported to the port for immediate loading onboard an MSC vessel - which is calling into Nelson weekly and year-round on the Kiwi Express service.
“This very successful partnership was launched precisely with the objective of meeting the needs of fruit shippers during peak export season and offering fast transit times to markets in South East Asia, the Middle East, and further north in Europe.”
“The decision to call at the port of Nelson has been a strategic investment for MSC, as this has enabled us to provide competitive transit times from New Zealand to all the key international apple markets, while also giving us the advantage of being very close to our producers in the northwest of the country, therefore providing smooth and steady door-to-door operations managed by multidisciplinary reefer experts. Our relationship with the port has significantly strengthened over the years,” states Steve.
The apple industry in Nelson dates back to the 1850s and today the region is the second-largest for pip fruit, apples predominantly. Apples have become so successful for New Zealand that the sector is forecast to become a billion-dollar industry by 2022. With this continued growth, the port has developed a solid expertise and is now in the final stages of a significant capital expenditure program which includes investment in a new 50t bollard pull tug, new warehousing, reefer towers, and terminal optimisation planning. For a carrier like MSC, these improvements have meant increased opportunities to expand upon existing services and continue offering shippers improvements in global market access to and from the Nelson region.
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