New Zealand exporters hit hard by global shipping problems

New Zealand exporters and shipping companies are being hit hard by a shortage of containers and backlogs of ships in global ports.

And with Shanghai's lockdown and the Ukraine conflict both having an impact, exporters say it's the worst it's been since the pandemic started.

While it's all action at Wellington's port, exporters are struggling to get shipping containers for their products, and boats to transport it.

"We've never had supply chain issues of this nature in the 11 years I've been at Sealord," Sealord CEO Doug Paulin told Newshub.

Sealord's warehouses are filling up with seafood that should be on overseas plates. Being a small country at the bottom of the world is a big problem.

"When these shipping companies are making their decisions, they're looking at it and saying it's better financially to go other places - and New Zealand misses out," he said.

Ports around the world are plagued with delays, partly because of COVID-19 restrictions, such as Shanghai's lockdown.

"I'd say this is as difficult as it's been," said ContainerCo managing director Ken Harris.

"There isn't a lot of surplus capacity in ports, there is no surplus capacity on ships at the moment, so missing their slots is very serious for ports."

Ukraine's invasion is hitting hard too.

"It has been disruptive for shipping, it's caused re-diversions," Harris added.

New Zealand's export sector is massive - last year more than $63 billion of goods left our shores. Our biggest exports are dairy, meat and wood. Our biggest market is China. But getting exports into Shanghai is tough.

"There's no drivers to move the product in… many exporters are looking to reroute their ships to other Chinese ports which are also becoming clogged up," Meat Industry Association CEO Sirma Karapeeva said.

That's costing Kiwis as companies choose to freeze meat rather than ship it chilled, and frozen meat isn't worth as much.

"Ultimately it hits the farmer's pocket because the companies can't extract the maximum for their product," Karapeeva said.

Dairy giant Fonterra is also being impacted. Its global supply chain director Gordon Carlyle said products are moving through Shanghai but with delays.

"With the announcement of suspension of bookings for reefer services into Shanghai by the major shipping lines, we have been working with our in-market teams to reroute product via other ports and to manage timing of delivery.

"Transportation disruptions in and around Shanghai are also contributing to the logistical challenges that we are currently facing."

Exporters are hoping shipping struggles will soon ease.

"I am optimistic we will scrape by, but it is serious and we can't ignore the problem," Harris said.

An expensive problem for New Zealand's export sector.