Loss of coastal tankers a severe blow to maritime industry

Unions representing ship crews says the removal of two New Zealand coastal tankers by petrol companies is disappointing and has damaged New Zealand’s maritime industry.

Two New Zealand coastal tankers MT Matuku and MT Kokako have been taken off the New Zealand coast and are heading overseas, after being reflagged to the Marshall Islands registry.

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

The fuel security campaign led by several maritime unions and professional bodies had requested the Government to step in to keep two New Zealand coastal tankers in service as floating storage units.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the decision has resulted in the loss of around 80 seafaring jobs and training opportunities for young seafarers.

He says there must be immediate action from the Government to prevent a further loss of skilled maritime workers in coastal shipping which is in a critical state.

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 prime motive for refining and petrol companies are returns to shareholders, not what is in the national interest of New Zealand.

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

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

Mr Harrison says unions want to work with the Government and the shipping industry and “Just Transition” workers into a coastal shipping industry that helps our domestic freight task and decarbonizes our transport network through low emission coastal shipping.

The campaign for fuel security Save Our Tankers is comprised 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.