Temporary Container Shipping Service For Gisborne Could Become Permanent

RNZ reports that the Government has contracted a coastal shipping service between Gisborne and Napier due to the ongoing closure of State Highway 2 by Cyclone Gabrielle. The service is expected to operate for up to three months. Gisborne Port primarily handles logs at present and is not permanently equipped to handle containers. However an extension of the port with additional berthing and facilities to enable regular shipping of containers has been proposed as a development in recent years. At present the transport of containers is exclusively provided by road and is considered to be slower and more vulnerable than desired because of the nature of these roads and their susceptibility to damage from severe weather events such as at present. The lack of alternatives to road transport for the carriage of container freight has been cited by rail lobbyists as a reason to re-open the Napier-Gisborne line, which is however also weather-damage prone in the same way as roads. Given that coastal shipping operators carrying containers between other NZ ports already pass up the East Coast of New Zealand, there is certainly no lack of opportunity and capability for shipping of containers between Gisborne Port and either Napier or Tauranga, and reported comments by Port management included in the article suggest they hope that the Port will be able to continue the container shipping service once the government contract ends. The Walbran Report, “Gisborne to Napier Coastal Shipping Study” produced for Eastland Infrastructure (the owner of Gisborne Port) in 2010 suggested the development of a coastal shipping service is feasible for container traffic. Gisborne currently operates mainly for coastal shipping of logs and has at times also been the origin of international shipping of produce exports, but does not appear to be set up currently for container handling.