Swire Shipping has found its niche in Timaru, doubling its visits to the town
An Asian shipping company which has docked regularly at Timaru's port for more than 15 years is showing its confidence in the area by doubling its visits.
Swire Shipping's Auckland-based corporate development manager, Tony Spelman, said Timaru was an important market for the company.
"We have noticed a consistent demand for services from Asia into Timaru in the last 12 months," he said.
"We have confidence in (PrimePort). We have worked with them a long time and strategically it is a good port to be working from, given its location.
"We have customers in Timaru and Geraldine region. It is not far to Christchurch by road and rail links.
The company liked sailing into regional ports. "That is our niche," Spelman said.
PrimePort chief executive Phil Melhopt said he was pleased to see Swire Shipping doubling its North Asian service through Timaru.
"The increased service opens up further capacity and access to global markets as well as increased capacity for domestic coastal shipping of containers.
"The expanded Swire Shipping service, along with the recent introduction of Maersk's new Tasman Star service, are excellent examples of the continued growth in Timaru Container Terminal's activities and the improved market access for regional importers and exporters."
Swire Shipping has supported the Christchurch rebuild, supplying steel for construction and cranes.
Its ships also accommodate refrigerated freight such as fish and vegetables and have brought in earth-moving machinery for transport to Kaikoura for roading.
Because Dunedin's Port Chalmers is further south, it requires additional steaming time and the increased visits to Timaru allow the company to meet its schedule, Spelman said.
"The market in Timaru works well for us in terms of berth space and support. We have considered other ports in the South Island but have found our niche in South Canterbury."
He said Lyttelton was a busy cargo port so going there meant competing in a "bigger pool".
He likened it to going to Christchurch to catch a flight - there are more airlines flying from the city than from Timaru so there was more choice in airlines to fly.
Berthing in Timaru more often meant more choice for importers and exporters here and consequently that benefited the company, he said.
Spelman said it was difficult to quantify the economic benefits of the extra stops in the region. However he said PrimePort would need to put on more labour to accommodate the company's visits and that would flow through to the community in terms of wages.
In addition more freight and containers would be transported by road, so there would be more work for trucking companies.