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Maersk New Zealand is introducing a new system guaranteeing export space on vessels but for an unspecified fee, according to a report by Stuff.co.nz

Further, when exporters, for whatever reason, don’t front up with cargo, they may have to pay what is ominously called a “dead freight” transaction fee, the report said.

The cost to exporters for getting their product to Asia, North America and Europe is about to increase, the report said, but by how much is, at this point, unclear.

Quoting Julian Bevis, managing director of Maersk’s New Zealand operations, the report said exporters can no longer rely on additional capacity during peak season: “Unless we can get some certainty around the cargo and the remuneration for it, then we will be much less willing to commit to such supplementary tonnage.”

This, he was quoted as saying, is not a threat but a clear enunciation of commercial reality.

He said the level of deployment would probably stay for the time being but “in order to drive the right behaviour between [shipping] lines and exporters, it would be preferable for there to be commitments in both directions.”

The report said at present, exporters can make a booking but there is no financial penalty if companies miss the boat, a point acknowledged by exporter groups such as the New Zealand Shippers Council.

Maersk, the report added, now wants to shift its operations to a more normal contractual arrangement where there is more certainty on both sides of the trade.

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