Container shipping giant Maersk is to introduce a dedicated two-vessel coastal service which will have New Zealand crews and work in local waters only.
The Danish line says it's the first such service for Maersk in 25 years operating in New Zealand.
The service, Maersk Coastal Connect, will start on July 12, using two 2500 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent container) capacity vessels, Maersk Nadi and Maersk Nansha, calling at five ports - Timaru, Lyttelton, Nelson, Auckland and Tauranga.
Between them, the two ships will weekly cover Timaru, Nelson and Tauranga, and fortnightly Auckland and Nelson.
The service will provide a more flexible network to safeguard critical connections and assist in shifting empty containers to ports with export demand, said My Therese Blank, head of market, Maersk Oceania.
Each vessel would call at four ports on a 14-day rotation. This would enable a 4.5-day schedule buffer to absorb delays due to weather or operational disruption, she said.
The vessels will connect to Maersk's international network in Tauranga and Lyttelton.
The Maersk Nadi was deployed on the company's New Zealand-Fiji service Sirius Star, which will be replaced by the new service, which Maersk said was permanent. The Maersk Nansha was deployed to the Polaris service.
The main cargoes on the new service are expected to be dairy, meat, produce, seafood, foods and beverages, chemicals, fertiliser and building material, said Blank.
The introduction of a dedicated coastal service follows Maersk's announced intention to build a major cold chain facility at the new Ruakura Superhub, the huge Tainui Group Holdings freight and manufacturing hub now rising in Hamilton.
It also follows the Government's announcement of preferred suppliers for new and enhanced coastal shipping services. Maersk said its proposal was not selected.
The Government has committed $30 million in funding for coastal shipping through the national land transport programme. Last month it announced the four preferred suppliers were Coastal Bulk Shipping, Move International, Swire Shipping and Westland Mineral Sands.
Each of the four suppliers was to introduce at least one additional coast shipping vessel to improve the resilience of the supply chain.
Asked if its new service was in response to the development of new competition on New Zealand's coastline, Maersk told the Herald it operated five international container shipping services and "our focus is different from that of niche carriers who do not have the same international network connections or investment in landside infrastructure".
"Whilst our mainliner network is delivering high schedule reliability, achieved through restructuring port calls, adding additional vessels to our New Zealand network, our coastal connections have not been delivering a satisfactory result, resulting in missed connections to our mainliner network and cargo delays for our customers.
"The lack of flexibility in altering the port calls on our Sirius Star service, operating under a temporary licence, has limited our abilities to respond to the New Zealand supply chain disruption."
The company said New Zealand supply chain disruption remained a challenge "to operate a stable ocean network".
The pandemic was still creating labour issues and some New Zealand ports had advised Maersk not to expect fixed berthing windows to be reinstated until next year. The new coastal service would be reliable and ensure stable connections to Maersk's international network.
Maersk said based on leading GLEC freight methodology to calculate representative cargo volumes, the new coastal service was estimated to enable 43,000 tonnes of carbon savings a year compared to a trucking service.
Maersk operates in 130 countries and employs around 95,000 people in its integrated container logistics businesses.