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The cost and environmental advantages of shipping

Shipping is a cost-effective mode of transport around the New Zealand coastline.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the cost of shifting a standard container door-to-door from Auckland to Christchurch by coastal ship is $850 - $1300, compared with $2200-$3000 by road or $1300 - $1900 by rail.

One major reason for this cost differential is shipping's advantage in fuel efficiency. The Swedish Network for Transport and the Environment has calculated that ships are more than six times as fuel efficient (per tonne/kilometre) than a medium sized truck.

Shipping is an environmentally friendly mode of transport.

Also a result of its fuel efficiency, shipping is responsible for fewer emissions than other transport modes. European Union figures indicate that, on a tonne/kilometre basis, shipping generates roughly 1/8 the carbon emissions of road transport vehicles and 3/5 those of rail.

Shipping has a central role to play in the response to climate change and in meeting the government target of reducing per capita emissions in the transport sector by half by 2040.

International trends and coastal shipping opportunities

Recent years have seen an international trend towards the consolidation of international shipping lines, the introduction of larger vessels and the rationalisation of port calls worldwide. This trend is placing pressure on New Zealand's smaller, regional ports.

The opportunity for coastal shipping operators and these regional ports is to develop a network of coastal feeder services carrying freight by sea between the regions and New Zealand's major gateway ports.

Growing shipping in New Zealand

Presently, it is estimated that 15% of New Zealand's inter-regional freight is carried by sea. It is a critical component of our domestic transport network. Ships carry freight and bulk cargoes (e.g. oil, cement, fertiliser) both along the New Zealand coast and between the North and South Islands.

However, New Zealand's domestic freight volumes are forecast to more than double by 2040. Even with massive investment in land transport this increase could not be accommodated by road and rail alone. By growing coastal shipping, New Zealand can take a load off the other transport modes and contribute to a more efficient land transport network. By comparison, in Japan, a country with a similar geography, more than 30% of freight is carried by sea.


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