Wed. Nov 30th, 2022


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Ship stuck at sea with would-be presents until Christmas Eve, retailer says it is disastrous

4 min read

Retailers waiting on stock to arrive from overseas have been told the ship carrying their stock destined for under people’s trees has been turned around or will not be unloaded until Christmas due to delays at the port.

The unwelcome delays are putting pressure on retailers who have already had a tough year due to Covid-19 and are worried they won’t have any stock to sell in what is traditionally their busiest time of year.

On Monday Ports of Auckland had six ships anchored in the Hauraki Gulf waiting to be unloaded.

An indicative berth plan by the Ports of Auckland sighted by the Herald shows ships are having to wait between zero up to 20 days from their arrival until they are berthed.

Only three of the Ports of Auckland’s eight cranes are being used at any one time due to a shortage of staff which the company is urgently trying to address.

Backdoor managing director Geoff Hutchison learnt last night the four containers including 1000 surf boards and summer apparel he had been expecting to arrive in mid-November were in the country but stuck on a ship in the Hauraki Gulf and would not be unloaded until December 24.

Hutchison said it was disastrous for the items – many which were beginner surfboards destined for Christmas presents – to arrive after their busiest time of the year.

Once they arrived he would then have to transport them around to his 19 surf shops located between Auckland and Christchurch as the internal freight system was also under pressure between Christmas and New Year.

“They will be late and we won’t sell anywhere near what we would have sold.”

Hutchison said while it was not fatal for his business, it would hurt his Christmas sales in a year when he needed it to go well.

The containers were originally meant to arrive mid-November but other delays offshore, such as a shortage of containers, meant four weeks of their six-week buffer has already gone.

“But on top of that it is the Port of Auckland delays. That has been the biggest one because those issues are in control of the Port of Auckland.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford was aware of some ships being turned back to Australia as the companies were not prepared to wait out at sea until Ports of Auckland could process their containers.

“This is a terrible time in a terrible year for these sort of stock shortages to be coming to the forefront. Obviously retail has been really battered and bruised this year as we’ve jumped in and out of alert levels and lockdown. While the sector has been a lot more resilient than we might have expected, everyone has certainly been hoping for a strong Christmas to set everyone up for a successful 2021.”

The delays were an accumulation of things, including a backlog overseas, a higher demand for goods, fewer freight ships coming in, and delays at the ports, he said.

Currently there were shortages of stock across the board, including bikes, fashion, books, games and electronics.

Harford said it could get to the point in a few weeks time where specific items weren’t available and people may be forced to go for a different brand or colour.

Ports of Auckland general manager of communications Matt Ball understood their frustrations and while he was aware some services had chosen to bypass Auckland and offload at other ports such as Tauranga – he was not aware of any ships being redirected back to Australia.

Ball said staff numbers had been pretty consistent over the past year and prior to the current recruitment drive there were 272 stevedores employed at the ports in October.

However the current staffing numbers could not keep up with the increase in demand in the second half of the year.

“If we had more people on hand we would have been able to handle significantly more volume than last year.”

Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand Rosemarie Dawson said the delays not only impacted on the retail sector but the entire supply chain and would likely carry on through the first quarter of 2021.

“The are manufacturers waiting for equipment and parts as well as retailers waiting for stock, as well as exporters wanting to get their product to market. It is the gambit of the New Zealand economy – it is New Zealand Inc being affected by this.”

Dawson said there was significant frustration among members about the delays and the extra load they were facing


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