Loss of coastal tankers deals a severe blow to New Zealand’s shipping industry

Maritime Union of New Zealand/New Zealand Merchant Service Guild/Aviation and Marine Engineers Association joint press release

Unions representing ship’s crews say the withdrawal of two New Zealand coastal tankers by oil companies is disappointing and has hurt New Zealand’s shipping industry.

Two New Zealand coastal tankers Mount Matuku and Mount Kokako were taken off the coast of New Zealand and are heading overseas, having been placed back on the Marshall Islands registry.

The decision was made by oil companies who are now using a radically new and untested model of direct imports onto foreign vessels from Asian refineries.

The Fuel Safety Campaign led by several maritime unions and professional bodies had called on the government to intervene to keep two New Zealand coastal tankers in service as floating storage units.

Maritime Union of New Zealand national secretary Craig Harrison said the move resulted in the loss of around 80 seafarer jobs and training opportunities for young seafarers.

He says the government must act immediately to avoid a further loss of skilled cabotage maritime workers who are in critical condition.

The two New Zealand tankers had been chartered by Coastal Oil Logistics Limited (COLL) to transport petroleum products from the now closed Marsden Point refinery to New Zealand ports on behalf of its shareholders BP, Mobil and Z.

The vessels were managed by New Zealand operator Silver Fern Shipping Limited and owned by international operator ASP Ship Management Group, which chartered them to COLL.

Mr Harrison says the primary motive for refining and oil companies is shareholder return, not what is in New Zealand’s national interest.

He says the international tanker market is in turmoil as the war in Ukraine disrupts global trade and sanctions come into effect.

“The war in Ukraine has destabilized the global energy market and shipping, and we have new tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Mr Harrison says unions want to work with government and the shipping industry and workers for a ‘just transition’ in a coastal shipping industry that helps our inland freight task and decarbonizes our transport network through the low-emission coastal shipping.

The Save Our Tankers fuel safety campaign is made up of the Maritime Union of New Zealand representing seafarers, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild representing ship’s masters and officers, and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association representing marine engineers.

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