18 August 2008

Greens not so green on shipping

A long time ago it used to be that when a ship from overseas sailed into New Zealand waters, it was only allowed to drop off freight that has been consigned from overseas. So, for example, if it arrived first into Auckland, then went to Napier, Wellington, Lyttelton and finally Port Chalmers, it could only offload freight to those ports, and take freight on board that it would be taking overseas again. It couldn't take freight from Auckland to Port Chalmers, for example.

That was called cabotage - it was a form of protectionism that those on the conservative right used to endorse because it protected shipping companies, and those on the left endorsed because the most leftwing (and overpaid and underworked) unions - those on the waterfront and on board ships, were also protected.

This was abolished in the late 1990s, with the main groups bemoaning it the unions, the local shipping companies and Tranz Rail. The same thing happened in the airline sector with Australia, which is why Qantas and Pacific Blue now readily fly domestic routes, to the benefit of all domestic travellers as pressure is brought to bear on price and service quality.

The benefits to shippers have been tremendous, as freight that isn't time sensitive can be placed on ships with spare capacity trekking up or down the coast as part of an international trip. It also has meant it is more viable to keep such ships going to ports at the "end" of the trip, such as Bluff.

From an environmentalist's perspective this should be seen as a win. Ships that otherwise would have burnt fuel running part empty can use this spare capacity carrying extra freight at low marginal cost, instead of being on trucks, trains or on other ships. No need for government owned infrastructure to be used, no need for services to operate specifically for such freight, the spare capacity is there, able to be used. Prices are kept low, the environment benefits, everyone wins (except those higher priced transport operators that don't get the business).

Except the Greens don't see it that way. They would rather these ships keep going from port to port carrying no domestic freight, and instead New Zealand shipping companies or Kiwirail or even truck companies put on services to carry this freight. The reason?

Unions. The maritime unions are the most militantly leftwing the country has and the Greens are rather warm towards them. The well paid jobs these mariners want to keep and grow (only unionised ones of course, the Maritime Union isn't too friendly to workers who don't like their representation) are more important to the Greens that lowering emissions in this case.

So you see the Greens prefer freight charges to go up for shippers, and for ships to operate around the coast carrying less freight, in order to protect their union mates in MUNZ. Another case of it being the Red Party rather than the Green Party?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, the "leftwing (and overpaid and underworked) unions . . . "

yeah, they have it too easy . . . especially the 15 seafarers who died on the Holmglen in 1959, the 29 who went down on the Kaitawa in 1966, those amongst the 51 passengers and crew who died on Wahine in 1968, and all the other wharfies and seafarers who have been maimed and killed on the job . . .

so they can generate profits for capitalist parasites like you . . .