Up to 50 jobs could be lost at the Port of Timaru, New Zealand, following the decision of two major shipping lines to cease container operations at the port.
Shell-shocked staff were informed this morning by Rail Transport and Maritime Union's South Island organizer, John Kerr, that Maersk and Hamburg Sud will now skip Timaru and steam direct from Otago to Napier from September.
“We've not had a firm proposal around restructuring or redundancies at this stage but the branch executive will be meeting with the executive on Thursday,” said Kerr.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Kerr said that the Danish and German ocean carriers had yet to give a reason for no longer calling the South Island port.
Union members will meet next Monday to discuss the proposals.
The decision is likely to affect around 90 percent of Timaru staff either directly or indirectly linked to the port’s container shipping services.
“Someone clicks on a mouse in Copenhagen and working families in Timaru lose their breadwinners' job,” said Kerr.
“They're not daft - they know this is how big business behaves, but nonetheless it doesn't make it any less of a shock when it comes because now it's real and it could have an impact on their families.”
“It's not a good day for working people in New Zealand.”
In response to the shippers’ announcement, PrimePort's chief executive Jeremy Boys, although disappointed, made it clear that the decision would not hinder Timaru’s plans of becoming a dedicated breakbulk facility in the near future.
“It is our staff and many service providers who will bear the real brunt of this announcement,” said Boys.
“They have shown great loyalty and flexibility particularly in the last three years when we have had to adapt to continuous realignments by the shipping industry.'”
Boys added that it would still be several weeks before a consultation plan was put in place, and that the main focus now for PrimePort, responsible for operations at Timaru, was to support staff and local exporters affected by the move.