Congestion and delays at New Zealand’s ports

Francesco Petrilli

Due to the pandemic, the international freight forwarding market has drastically changed compared to 1 year ago.

The spread of Covid19 in Italy and New Zealand has drastically affected the commerce between these two countries, with even more difficulties related to shipping and price increases.

There are many factors in play here; first of all, during lockdown, most of the companies (suppliers, shipping lines, trucking companies…) had to work with skeleton staff to respect social distancing, which caused obvious delays in both countries (both in import and in export) and a container overload in the NZ ports.

Another factor that we should consider is the distance between both countries. Most of Asian countries too went into lockdown to try to stop the spread of the virus. Considering that most of the containers are transhipped via Asian ports (like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, etc.) and that they were working with skeleton staff, this added delays on the total route of the containers. The transit time for the shipping containers doubled or even triplicated. You can easily understand that for the reefer cargo from Italy (cheese, cured meats…) with limited expiry date, if the shipment takes 3 months, this may cause loss on shelf life and consequently loss of selling time in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, many companies in Italy and New Zealand have suffered the consequences of the pandemic, finding themselves in the position to fire their staff members obviously causing a lack of experienced people and resources.

NZ has also put on hold a lot of type of visa and this has created a lack of manual workers at the ports and in each part of the supply chain.

Finally yet importantly, all these factors have caused hugely increases on the freight rates (via air and via sea), so a lot of importers and exporters had to reduce their imports/exports.

The future and the forecast for the upcoming months it is still unclear and uncertain. Surely, the situation will continue for several months, but after the Chinese New Year, we will see some improvements in rates and transit times. Regarding what our members could do in this situation, I personally suggest them to stay up to date on the current situation with social media, newspapers and to stay in touch with their current freight forwarder.

Francesco Petrilli, ICCNZ councilor and BDM at Visa Global Logistics