The New Zealand kiwifruit industry has been boosted by three specialised reefer vessels, the first of which arrived this morning at Port of Tauranga to begin loading.
MV Kowhai started loading 4219 tonnes of Zespri Kiwifruit ahead of its maiden kiwifruit voyage bound for Japan.
Zespri's Chief Global Supply Officer, Alastair Hulbert, joined the commemoration event with a number of industry colleagues at Port of Tauranga, and was pleased to mark the start of the vessel's working life.
"Zespri is committed to building lasting relationships with our partners around the world and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry has benefitted immensely from the partnership we've forged with Fresh Carriers and their New Zealand-based agents, Oceanic Navigation, over the last 30 years.
"Safely and quickly transporting our fruit to market is critical, and our charter vessel programme has been a significant element of our industry's success including the service that Fresh Carriers provides to our North Asian ports, and also in response to the outbreak of Covid-19 this year."
Hulbert said they were looking forward to seeing the ship deliver fruit to even more consumers in the years ahead.
In recognition of the fact kiwifruit would be the main cargo transported, Fresh Carriers provided the kiwifruit industry with the opportunity to name the three new ships.
Former grower Lynda Hawes' suggestion of Kowhai was selected, symbolising the golden kiwifruit that continues to strengthen the bond between New Zealand and Japan, with the remaining two ships to be named Kakariki (Green) and Whero (Red), ensuring a full spread of Zespri's portfolio of golden, green and red kiwifruit.
Oceanic Navigation Director Bruce Nisbet was delighted to see the MV Kowhai berth in New Zealand and said the new vessels would play a significant role in shipping increasing volumes of New Zealand-grown kiwifruit in the years ahead.
"Each year Fresh Carriers transports around 190,000 tonnes of kiwifruit from New Zealand, and we're pleased to deliver the first of our three brand new vessels that will ship fruit to some of Zespri's top Asian markets.
"The new vessels can ship more trays of kiwifruit through a higher deck, and the engines are built to the latest standards in fuel efficiency. New technology in the vessels also enable remote monitoring of fruit conditioning, " Nisbet said.
Fresh Carriers supplied 35 vessels to ship Zespri kiwifruit to key North Asia ports this season, which was around 30 per cent of this season's fruit.
Fresh Carriers President Takao Takeshige was honoured to have worked with Zespri and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry for the last 30 years.
"Despite the current disruption caused by Covid-19 around the world, Zespri has had a successful season which convinces us that the decision to build the new ships for Zespri has been the right one," he said.
MV Kowhai is set to depart the Port of Tauranga tomorrow.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said the investment made by Fresh Carriers is a great example of what was required right across the supply chain to ensure that infrastructure can meet forecast supply and demand levels.
"NZKGI has been proud to be involved with the process after we were invited to work with growers to help select the names for the three ships. Growers are well aware that the transportation of their kiwifruit to overseas markets is a critical step in the supply chain management and these charter vessels will help secure economic returns not only to growers but the regional communities where the kiwifruit is grown."