Prime Port Timaru, the most centrally located South Island port, will axe more than 50 jobs by the end of September after losing container shipping services in July, says the union whose members are affected.
Global shipping lines Maersk and Hamburg Sud pulled the plug on Prime Port, leaving Lyttelton Port, Port Chalmers and Nelson as the remaining South Island ports offering containerised freight services.
"Since Maersk and Hamburg Sud announced they were pulling out of the Timaru container trade our members have been left wondering about the extent of job losses on the waterfront," Wayne Butson, general secretary at the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, said in a statement.
"The lack of a national ports strategy condemns ports to compete with one another for trade and the losers are Kiwi workers, ratepayers, and local businesses," he said.
Timaru had already lost about a third of its container volume because of Fonterra's decision in 2009 to rail product from its Clandeboye plant in South Canterbury to Lyttelton as part of a rationalisation of the number of ports it used.
State-owned, KiwiRail also pulled the plug on Timaru about three years ago.