Kiwifruit exporters will find it easier to get their product to the Asian market with the help of three new ships.
The specialised reefer vessels are an investment from Japanese company Fresh Carriers, and will carry Zespri kiwifruit to ports in north Asia.
The first of the new ships, MV Kowhai, arrived in the Port of Tauranga on Friday morning to begin loading 4219 tonnes of kiwifruit bound for Japan.
Alastair Hulbert, Zespri's chief global supply officer, said the Japanese company's investment came after a 30-year relationship between Zespri and Fresh Carrier's New Zealand-based agents Oceanic Navigation.
The ships' names were chosen by members of the kiwifruit industry in New Zealand, with former grower Lynda Hawes suggesting the name Kowhai, as it symbolises the "golden kiwifruit that continues to strengthen the bond between New Zealand and Japan".
The other two ships will be named Kakariki (Green) and Whero (Red).
Bruce Nisbet, director of Oceanic Navigation, said the new ships will play a significant role in shipping increasing volumes of New Zealand-grown kiwifruit in the coming years.
"The new vessels can ship more trays of kiwifruit through a higher deck, and the engines are built to the latest standards in fuel efficiency. New technology in the vessels also enables remote monitoring of fruit conditioning."
Fresh Carriers supplied 35 vessels to ship Zespri kiwifruit this season, around 35 percent of the season's fruit.