SC exporters acquire rail link to Port Otago

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2012

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A three-times-a-day rail service between Timaru and Dunedin has been launched after the loss of container shipping through the Port of Timaru.

A round-trip rail link between Timaru and Dunedin started this week, provided by Port Otago and KiwiRail. It comes after shipping giants Maersk and Hamburg Sud stopped sailing out of Timaru.

PrimePort cut more than half its fulltime staff as a result of the decision.

The new South Gate Rail service makes three daily return trips to Timaru, with 15 wagons and up to 30 twenty-foot equivalent containers per trip. It will operate Monday to Saturday.

Exporters and importers face significant cost increases with changes to the services, Levels onion grower and South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president Tony Howey said.

"In terms of exporters in South Canterbury, it's making it uncompetitive internationally because it adds cost to our product; it makes it more difficult for us to compete internationally."

Mr Howey congratulated Port Otago for taking the initiative to help the South Canterbury region.

"They're proactively trying to provide a facility for us; it's good that Otago has taken the initiative to try and help us out."

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith helped form a working group last month to retain container trade in Timaru.

Ms Smith said she was still seeking options for the port.

"Our preferred option will always be to have something going out of Timaru.

"It's very important that our exporters can get their products to market in a cost-effective and timely manner."

PrimePort chief executive Jeremy Boys said it was not a positive spin for the region.

"An exporter now has to pay for that service which costs extra.

"One assumes that there won't be as much flexibility around that."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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