Monday, 11 December 2017

Sea Change shipping policy dusted off

So here is the right time to have another look at what is in this document, since it was put together by the previous Labour government nine years ago.

The heading on the introduction page reads as follows

"In New Zealand only 15 percent of our inter-regional domestic freight is currently transported by sea. For an island nation, with a long coastline and rugged landforms, this seems anomalous."

The key selling points of the strategy break down to:

  • Reducing greenhouse emissions due to the increased efficiency of coastal shipping over surface modes.
  • Resilience to increased fuel costs because of the higher fuel efficiency.
  • That shipping requires relatively little infrastructure compared to the expensive cost of building and maintaining roads or rail tracks. 
Key in the fuel efficiency argument is that shipping moves 90% of freight volume while producing only 5% of the CO2 output. Overall, shipping is about twice as fuel efficient as rail, and between 5 to 10 times more efficient than road transport.

The report suggests that by 2040, 30% of domesitc freight should be moving around the country on coastal shipping. Currently about 15% does, including the Cook Strait ferries.

The report also highlights that ports need to be rationalised. Shipping companies expect to serve a country like NZ with fewer port calls in the future, for example with maybe one major port in each island, but it might be that different shipping lines use different major ports.

That is about as far as the document goes in suggesting how more freight should be moving coastally by ship.

Both Labour and Greens have overall supported the SeaChange report. However, the specifics of each party's policies differ. Labour had at the recent election two lines of policy, one of which referred directly to SeaChange and the other promised a ports strategy particularly for the upper North Island. What Labour hasn't committed to is actually implementing changes like reorganising ports. The Greens policy is also light on detail in this area.