COVID-19: Heavily congested ports cause shipping delays

COVID-19 has forced ports to delay, with some shipping companies suspending all New Zealand-bound cargo.

"Look it's a bit of a mess, quite frankly," Chris Edwards, Freight Forwarders Federation President told Newshub.

"You wouldn't know it by looking... but the port is heavily congested, ships are bypassing Auckland to go to Tauranga, or now, worse, not coming to New Zealand at all."

One shipping company has stopped taking all bookings for imports to New Zealand and says it doesn't have space.

"They are wanting to put containers on our ships, but we just haven't got enough capacity to fill it," OOCL NZ General Manager.

Planes being grounded due to COVID-19 has led to a surge in sea freight demand, right in the middle of peak import season.

In addition to this, worker strikes at Australian ports, and capacity constraints in New Zealand - this is a cargo crisis which could last beyond Christmas.

"The supply chain is broken and we don't see an easy fix coming soon, which probably means some empty shelves at Christmas," Edwards said.

COVID-19 has forced the Ports of Auckland to delay its automation upgrade, meaning it's still manually unloading cargo.

Shipping companies have told Newshub they're waiting up to six days to dock, anchoring off the coast in the meantime. 

Ports of Auckland has thrown its docking timetable out the window as it works to clear the backlog. 

"2020 has been the year when everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Ports of Auckland General Manager Matt Ball told Newshub.

"People don't see the feet of the duck paddling away furiously to keep the shops supplied. We're the feet of the duck."

Despite their efforts, some ships are sitting ducks, still idle, making their voyage here, an even longer one.