Campaign for New Zealand coastal tankers says fuel security at risk

Joint media release Maritime Union of New Zealand/New Zealand Merchant Service Guild/Aviation and Marine Engineers Association FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday 17 January 2022

Three unions representing New Zealand shipping crews are mounting a united campaign to protect New Zealand’s fuel security and save New Zealand coastal tankers.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand represents seafarers, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild represents ship’s masters and officers, and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association represents ships engineers.

All three unions say the removal of New Zealand coastal tankers from service is an unacceptable risk to New Zealand’s fuel security.

The impending closure of the Marsden Point refinery will have a flow-on effects to fuel distribution in New Zealand.

One of these is petrol companies intend to import refined fuel directly to New Zealand ports using overseas shipping.

For many decades, bulk refined fuel has been distributed throughout New Zealand from Marsden Point through two main methods – a pipeline to Auckland, and by New Zealand coastal tankers to regional ports.

Silver Fern Shipping is the operator of New Zealand’s two coastal tankers MT Kokako and MT Matuku and advised crew in late 2021 it planned to take the vessels out of service around April 2022.

The two vessels are contracted solely to Coastal Oil Logistics Limited (COLL) to deliver fuel from Marsden Point refinery to New Zealand ports. COLL is a joint venture between the major petrol companies.

Following the closure of Marsden Point refinery, petrol companies say they will import refined fuel directly to New Zealand ports from overseas refineries in Asia using overseas shipping.

The campaign for fuel security has identified multiple risks in this course of action.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says by removing New Zealand coastal tankers from service, New Zealand will become completely dependent on overseas shipping for fuel supplies.

He says at a time when international shipping is experiencing major congestion and delayed schedules, exposing New Zealand to greater risks is a bad decision.

Merchant Service Guild National Vice President Iain Macleod says the removal of New Zealand coastal tankers will reduce New Zealand maritime transport capability.

He says coastal tankers employ and train a skilled New Zealand seafaring workforce which is essential for a maritime trading nation such as New Zealand.

Aviation and Marine Engineer’s Association National Industrial Organiser Steve Westoby says New Zealand seafarers including engineers have an exemplary record of safety and reliability over decades of service on New Zealand coastal tankers.

He says New Zealand coastal tankers would be available to assist in any emergencies or disruption to fuel supplies, such as had occurred with the failure of the Marsden Point to Auckland pipeline in 2017.

The three unions say that New Zealand coastal tankers could remain in service by extending their operations to importing refined fuel from overseas.

Mr Harrison says it will be some time before oil-based fuels are phased out and New Zealand needs to maintain fuel security in a volatile global situation.

He says the Government needs to review fuel security measures in this unprecedented change to our fuel networks and ensure New Zealand coastal tankers remain in service.

For more information contact:

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison on 0274225238

New Zealand Merchant Service Guild Vice President Iain MacLeod on 021 431 354

Aviation and Marine Engineers Association National Industrial Organiser Steve Westoby on 021 747 354




2 replies on “Campaign for New Zealand coastal tankers says fuel security at risk”

I totally oppose the closer of Marsden Point Fuel Refinery. May I add that another example is the failure to provide cement works at Weston ,North Otago to replace Cape Foul wind cement works has already resulted in a similiar situation of all cement now coming into New Zealand, and no plant here this is exactly what will happen if we lose the refinery

I have had a career spanning over 45 years at sea on tankers of all sizes ,carrying a wide variety of crude oils, refined products and LNG. Over 8 years of this was spent with Silver Fern’s NZ
coastal tanker ‘Taiko’, So I can claim an intimate knowledge of the pending reckless decision to rely totally on foreign chartered vessels to maintain the supply of fuels to the various fuel depots around the NZ coast.
It appears that one of the major items lost in making this decision is that of the very real effects of climate change, which are unlikely to reduce in both intensity and frequency for many decades to come. With rising sea temperatures, the scene is set for an increase in wind and adverse sea conditions which will seriously delay the delivery of oil-based products, the severity of which could require government mandated emergency stocks to be released to keep industries of all types functioning. If this occurs, there is a domino effect as those responsible for charters of foreign crewd an owned tankers now have an obligation to not just resume normal planned coastal discharges, but must now increase imports to ‘top up’ the government mandated emergency stock. I seem to remember that in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s, there was a large reduction in spare storage at the various oil depots located in our ports. I don’t know how much spare storage will now be held at Marsden Point.
None of the above takes into account the loss of experience and expertise of personnel when our ships are stood down, the very real effect it will have to the local trades and refinery workers and most importantly, the very real ease with which the supply chain could be so easily shattered. Let’s hope common sense and the political will to avert this potentially disastrous decision may occur.
Capt. John Briand (shipmaster retired)

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