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Auckland port dispute will cost customers, shipping lines say

Friday 2nd December 2011

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Ports of Auckland management and the Maritime Union need to resolve their disputes with disruption coming at the worst possible time for exporters, importers and customers, according to the shipping lines lobby group.

The Maritime Union workers at the port are currently on strike until 10.30pm tonight and plan to hold second 24-hour strike Monday, while the port operator will exacerbate the closure by locking out 327 staff over the weekend. The industrial dispute will affect the Bledisloe and Fergusson container terminals, and associated road and rail services.

“Having Auckland out of the equation for up to eight days over the next fortnight will seriously affect our ability to get goods loaded and unloaded on schedule, which will have considerable knock-on effects for our customers and for the New Zealand economy as a whole,” Julian Bevis, International Container Lines Committee chair and chief executive of Maersk New Zealand, said in a statement.

“Ultimately, the big losers in all this are those companies whose access to markets and customers around the world is hampered,” he said.

The prospect of a strike cropped up last month after the union and the port were unable to reach agreement on the terms for a new collective pay contract.

Rival operator Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns told Fairfax Media his port will be “flat-out” taking on three vessels that will bypass Auckland.

KiwiRail announced it is laying on extra trains to protect Auckland's pre-Christmas freight supply lines.

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