NZ shipping

31st July 2005, 06:19
I don't know if it's just that we have a lot of NZ people on this site and they are great ship enthusiasts, but I get the impression that NZ have/had a large merchant fleet. Is this right?

31st July 2005, 06:43
The NZ merchant fleet is but a shadow of its former self. Far and away, the Union Steam Ship Company was the largest and possibly at its height was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. They no longer exist and nowadays the NZ merchant fleet consists of a few bulk cement ships (three actually), the Cook Strait rail ferries, two coastal tankers and a relatively large fleet of tugs and barges owned by SeaTow of Auckland. Strait Shipping also operate across Cook Strait with a passenger ferry and one RO/RO cargo ship. Pacifica Shipping operates one RO/RO ship between Wellington & Lyttelton and one small container ship between Onehunga, Lyttelton & Nelson. The fleet is rounded off with one small general cargo ship operating between Timaru (and other ports on inducement) & the Chatham Islands.

31st July 2005, 06:50
Thanks David it looks to be another victim of the modern age. Was it disproportionally large a few years ago compared, say, to Aus?

Doug Rogers
31st July 2005, 06:58
Modern times Derek, they did have a good fleet at one time the same as Oz....and I guess both countries well supported by british shipping in its time. But with the advent of containerisation the rot set in with a vengeance, we might be a little better of in terms of shipping in Oz, argueably because of our minerals exports but the situation isnt getting any better, the numbers are still falling and I think will continue to do so.

1st August 2005, 10:03
I wouldn't say that the NZ fleet was disproportionally large, but did become a victim of progress with ships becoming redundant well before their time was up.
The main trade in which the Union Company was involved was that with Australia and for many years, the Tasman Sea was regarded as the Union Company's private pond.
In earlier years, they also traded with North America and up to India but these trades fell victim to technological advancement and "cross-traders".
In 1974, the NZ Government set up the Shipping Corporation of New Zealand (affectionately known as "sconzy") and they traded as far as the UK with the NZ AORANGI & NZ WAITANGI, until they were replaced by the container ship NEW ZEALAND PACIFIC. They also operated ships on the NZ coast, around the Pacific and in 1983, dared to venture onto the Tasman in partnership with ANL. Eventually the Government decided they didn't want to run a shipping line any more and sold it off at bargain basement rates to ACT in 1989.
The Union Company ran into trouble on the Tasman when the Government decided it was going to allow cargo to be carried on cross-trade ships. Consortiums were formed, slot-sharing came into being, but eventually the Union Company was reduced to running a tug and barge carrying coal across the Tasman. Now this once-proud Company doesn't even exist.
It wouldn't be fair to lay the entire blame on the Government, various Maritime Unions played their part as well - virtually every NZ ship had 2.2 crews allocated to them. Add to this the fact that the crews on the Cook Strait ferries were working 4 days on, 8 days off and being flown all around the country at the Employers expense. This situation no longer exists and I think it is now a requirement for crews to be Wellington based.
Other companies also came and went - Maritime Carriers, Tasman Express Line & South Pacific Shipping all ran on the Tasman at one time or other, NZ Sea Transport (Seatrans) ran a refrigerated cargo ship between NZ and Japan from 1969 to 1972 and there have been various attempts at reviving the coastal trade.
Nowadays, no New Zealand ships trade internationally anymore, all we have now is mentioned in my post above.

1st August 2005, 10:43
Thanks for the great comprehensive picture Dave.

20th August 2005, 03:14
Hi Derek,
Just to give you an idea when I joined Union Company in 1965 they had 52 ships. Hard to believe that the company no longer exists. Fortunately the memories remain though!

20th August 2005, 07:40
Yes a great pity Selwyn they were one of the greats

Chris Field
11th November 2005, 20:08
I joined Union Line in 1955- sent as a passenger from Liverpool to Auckland in the "Cambridge "(Federal/NZS Co). Soon after arrival in Auckland I obtained an advert (still have it but currently 12000 mls away in Whangaparaoa) showing that , including tugs and Aussie coast vessels USS Co were running 65 ships. Apart from thew tran- Tasman jobs I also had a couple of trips on the "Waitemata"- one of three Empire-class ships on the run from NZ and Aussie to the West coast of USA and Canada (anybody else out there remember Tahsis or Cowichan Bay?) - with brief drop-ins on Tahiti (what a pain!) and Rarotonga (in response to frantic local calls on radio for some ship to pick up their tomatoes and oranges).
Later I enjoyed a couple of years with Maritime Carriers on the Tasman, but the highlight for me was the Shipping Corporation as mentioned above. I had seven trips round the world on "New Zealand Pacific"- when built she was reported to be the largest 'frig ship ever built- though was soon overtaken by the Bay boats of UK.
The end came when the govt sold SCONZ. We had been told in NZ that the ship would be returning to NZ so were astounded to sent from London to Tahiti via Panama instead of our usual S.Africa route to Melbourne/Auckland...We were dumped in Tahiti into posh hotels and flown home the next day. The reasons were made clear- we were too costly with our 1-for-1 leave set-up, so that was that. Interestingly, the UK Second Mate who took over my job in Moorea harbour was receiving rather more money than me- though the savings were clearly in the crew who seemed to be a motley array of blokes from the predictably cheap markets...
There has beeen no mention of the Pacific Forum Line, formed in the late 70's by ten Pacific nations (including NZ and Aussie) - I joined them after SCONZ went,and found it a great experience cruising from one paradise to another N.Caledonia, Brizzie, Tahiti, Raro,Samoa,Tonga , PNG and so on.They were not strictly NZ fleet, but nearly all the mates and engineers were NZers, with heaps of Fijians/Samoans etc- great lads to work with.
Nowadays the cheap labour market appears to dominate the oceans- perhaps that is a part of the rise in container losses?

11th November 2005, 22:33
Union Co. owned most of the other NZ coastal companies & in turn was of course owned by P&O.For those interested the following gives agood background on NZ coastal shipping. Kiwi

Jan Hendrik
11th November 2005, 23:04
You mentioned Pacific Forum Line and I think there is still a bit left of this shipping company.
I have also been involved quite a bit with them and had a contract about the paints.
The Fua Kavenga was a separate company under the wings of this line and did not pay their debts in the end.
She was laid up abt 2 or 3 years ago, but I do not remember where she went.

The site you mention about NZCoastal Shipping is of course the personal web site of our friend and supermod Flyer 682.


12th November 2005, 01:52
Kiwi and Jan - thanks for the plug!!! :)

Jan Hendrik
12th November 2005, 04:44
Costing you another beer David. Number 13 already and I keep counting......

12th November 2005, 12:53
Well at least you still have TSS Earnslaw, with an ex Brocklebank line man as chief engineer.

J Boyde
4th January 2006, 08:10
Now it will be interesting to see what the new ship(s) will be like. Paper reported that colliers will be running between Greymouth and New Plymouth, then wherever with the coal from the new mine. High quality coal.
Jim B

J Boyde
5th January 2006, 09:07
Now it will be interesting to see what the new ship(s) will be like. Paper reported that colliers will be running between Greymouth and New Plymouth, then wherever with the coal from the new mine. High quality coal.
Jim B
The new ships are to built in China, In service about 18 months time. Special construction for the shallow bar, extra strength and will carry 12000 tns. Built for Greymouth. Be interesting to see then (two). They will discharge at NewPlymouth for Pamx ships.
Jim B

17th January 2006, 23:44
worked on th konui ,wiamati and rangatira, around the middle 60's, if I remember rightly the boy's were a bit like the canadians and liable to strike now and then wasn't one of the stoppages over coffee perculators, and look what happened to the Saguenay ships

20th December 2008, 00:15
I was the agent for the Furness Withy Group back in the late 60's and 70' when the NZ Aorangi and NZ Waitangi were trading into the Royal Docks in London. It was in the early days of my career, I look back and really believe that they were very good days. Fantastic to find this website.

20th December 2008, 01:31
I seem to recall that the Union Steam Ship Co had a fleet totaling about 75 ships when I joined them in 1957.
In addition to this company we had the coastal shipping Co's Northern Steamship Co, Anchor Line and Holm Shipping Co and probably more.
Of course these were the days when British and American shipping Co's were in equal abundance and the port of Auckland for one was a continual hustle and bustle with all wharves occupied plus a few waiting in stream for a berth.
Not like today when a trip to Devonport on the ferry finds one peering at empty berths and just one or two cont ships at the container terminal.
Those were the days when crew shortages saw mates and engineers some times shanghaied off an arriving ship to join a ship waiting to sail.
I once saw it happen when both ships were in stream and a "Blue boat" launch did the transfer.
As I say, Those were the days, my friends
We thought that they would never end.


J Boyde
20th December 2008, 06:51
Recent history now gives us more information in how P&O, who were the owners of the USSCo for so much of its life, stripped the company for a very long time. P&O of course have also gone with the wind. The coal from Greymouth the NewPlymouth has been scrapped. Rail took over the and now are suposed to take their load the Littleton, when that starts. Of course at the present the world has reduced its demand for products, and the rail, what will happen to that, they have now owners, the public, again. Our last, and past government has been talking about increasing coastal shipping, I have a problem, will I live long enough to see some of this.
Jim B

20th December 2008, 12:03
Yes NZ like Australia had a large shipping lines, however they have all gone due in sum respect to Seaman Unions over pricing labour cost and the refusal of wharfies to accept change such as containers etc. and also shipping companies not looking forward. Consider that between UK, NZ, AU, some 54-58% of the world cargo was carried by them in the 60s' as today less than 4%. I would hazard a guess that less than 2% of seamen today come from any of these countries. Just take a voyage on a passenger ship today. Remember nothing stands still move with the times.