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Bay of Plenty kiwifruit is arriving in Europe at an increasingly speedier rate thanks to a supply agreement between Zespri and major shipowners and operators Seatrade, according to Bay of Plenty Times.

Representatives of both companies last week gathered at the Port of Tauranga for a tour of the latest ship built by Seatrade – the specialised refrigerated vessel Baltic Klipper – before it embarked for Zeebrugge, Belgium, carrying a maiden cargo of Zespri kiwifruit.

The Baltic Klipper is the newest refrigerated vessel, commonly known as reefer vessels, constructed in the newbuild programme Seatrade has undertaken as part of its growth strategy.

The vessel, with a length of 165 metre, a deadweight of about 15,000 tonnes and a top speed of 22.5 knots, took nine months to build at Seatrade’s shipyard at Kitanihon, in northern Japan.

Over the next six months, two more identical sister reefer vessels will join the Baltic Klipper in Seatrade’s global pool.

Dave Southwood, Seatrade’s chartering manager, said reefer vessels offered a fast, point-to-point service that was ideal for the kiwifruit industry.

“Our vessels offer the fastest transit time from Tauranga to Europe with an average of only 27 days which is considerable faster than container lines,” he said.

“This means Zespri can be assured their chilled kiwifruit arrive in minimal time in the best possible condition.”

Southwood likened the Seatrade service to a door-to-door taxi service whereas the container lines services could be likened to a bus service.

“The bus makes many stops and, therefore, an inherently slower transit for the fruit than a reefer vessel.”

Exporting kiwifruit in reefer vessels was also an environmentally friendlier option for companies, as they had lower CO2 emissions overall per pallet than the equivalent volume of fruit carried in refrigerated containers, the report said.

And with its special ammonia refrigeration system, the Baltic Klipper would leave even less of a carbon footprint than other reefer vessels using normal systems.

Another feature of the ship is its specially strengthened hull, making it an “ice class” vessel and able to sail from ports like St Petersburg in Russia’s Arctic Circle during winter months.

“Many ports in the Arctic Circle are normally closed to general cargo vessels and shipping requires ice breaker escorts to keep things moving,” Southwood was quoted saying.

During the kiwifruit export season, Seatrade vessels docking at Tauranga take an average load of between 5,000 and 6,000 pallets of kiwifruit.

The Baltic Klipper can take about 5,500 pallets of fruit underdeck and has capacity on-deck for another 450 containers.

To maintain its regular 10-day frequency to Zespri, Seatrade has seven vessels dedicated to the New Zealand Liner Service during the March to October season.

Zespri used reefer vessels for about 80% of its exports.

“Because Zespri has about 100 million trays of kiwifruit to ship over the season, it needs quite a concentration of guaranteed shipping supply in order to meet offshore sales demands,” Southwood said.

“By employing reefer vessels, Zespri can have direct control over its global supply chain.

“It never has to worry the ‘bus’ might be full already when it pulls up at the port, like the container lines sometimes do.”

New Zealand is a key market for the Seatrade Group which has long-term supply agreements with Zespri and some other large exporters.

Zespri shipping manager Mike Knowles said the Baltic Klipper was fast, large and modern, adding that it was fantastic for the kiwifruit industry to have access to such a modern vessel. — Bay of Plenty Times

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