Freight shipments into Auckland are expected to be delayed 20-30 days due to congestion at the Ports of Auckland, major logistics company Mainfreight is warning.
In an update to its customers, Mainfreight has advised operational delays at the port and ships electing to skip the port to unload at other gateways suggest "in-bound shipments will likely experience a 20-30 day delay from the most recent (ship) ETA, as alternative routing and or discharge port decisions are made by carriers".
"Over the last two weeks Mainfreight has seen increased delays for vessels arriving at Ports of Auckland as berthing windows continue to be pushed back, extending transit times while vessels and carriers wait for open berths."
Container cargo discharged at the Port of Tauranga, which is at peak export season, has to be trans-shipped back to Auckland. The Tauranga port's inland port at Auckland is already under pressure from staff shortages.
Ports of Auckland told the Herald the delay issue is a "landside" supply chain problem - not the port's.
The port was currently at 93 per cent capacity because of congestion in warehouses and distribution centres, said chief operating officer Mike Lightfoot. A port operates most efficiently at 80 per cent. In the New Year the port had been 121 per cent full.
Lightfoot said because of the "massive" global supply chain problem and shipping schedule upheaval post-pandemic outbreak, six ships could arrive in one day at the port.
He did not know the basis for Mainfreight's 20-30 day delay calculation.
He noted a 28 per cent increase in shippers' use of larger 40 foot containers year on year. These larger containers required two storage spaces instead of the one required by 20 foot TEUs.
The change had resulted from importers reverting to "just in case" purchasing habits since the supply chain crunch from pre-Covid "just in time", he said.
The port's latest operational update, dated Monday, showed five container ships due to arrive imminently, one being worked, and two at anchor. It said it was starting to see staff shortages due to Covid.
Lightfoot said the port's operating situation was much better than at this time last year. The weekly average truck turnaround time had been reduced to 18 minutes - however trucks were not able to clear containers from the wharves because of supply chain congestion elsewhere.
Mainfreight managing director Don Braid stood by his company's freight delay calculations.
He said the advice to customers that some carriers had opted to skip Auckland or call at alternative ports, was based on advisories to Mainfreight.
Lightfoot acknowledged some ships had skipped Auckland, opting instead for Tauranga and Northport near Whangarei.
Port of Tauranga said it had been able to accommodate some vessel and cargo diversions in the past couple of weeks.
It would continue to receive whatever cargo it could handle based on current berth, container storage and rail capacity, a spokeswoman said.
"However, we are in peak export season and also the potential that we will face our own operational challenges if the Omicron outbreak spreads in the Bay of Plenty. We've already seen delays at times at our MetroPort facility in Auckland due to staff shortages."
The Auckland port's operational update said it was starting to see a labour supply shortage due to Covid.
"So far numbers are low and the operational impact is minimal, but it is inevitable that this will increase. As a critical industry our operational staff are able to come in and work even if they are a close contact, as long as they return a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) before they start their shift. This is a huge help in keeping the port running.
"We have started testing all staff as they come to work and will do our best to continue to
"Obviously we are just one part of the supply chain and other parts – inland ports, distribution centres, trucking firms, empty depots etc – are also being affected, which could lead to delays getting goods on or off port."
Mainfreight's Braid said the big transport and logistics company was starting to feel Omicron's bite among staff. It was testing daily with Rapid Antigen Tests.
His advice to frustrated New Zealanders in the worsening supply chain situation: "Be patient, be understanding and be faithful to long-term supply relationships".