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Earthquake New Zealand 14 November 2016

Posted on 14 November 2016

12:00pm 13 January 2017

Please see below our update on freight movements post the South Island earthquakes, and other key points.

Thankfully, there were no additional natural disruptions during the peak freight season in November and December.  We also welcome the news of the Kaikoura community being serviced via two southbound road links, and KiwiRail’s aggressive push to reinstate services.  

Our services are being refined for inter-Island freight (between Islands) as volumes moderate.  Our drivers continue to be tested by holiday traffic through the alternative routes; maintenance crews are managing to keep roads open and intact, in conjunction with proactive policing; and local community support services are holding together.

Our planning is now focused towards the upcoming winter months; commissioning additional all-weather protection at our pop-up depot at Springs Creek, and putting effort into sourcing additional specialised containers and equipment from offshore.  Supplementary food grade warehousing has been commissioned in Christchurch, as customers take advantage of holding stock in the South Island to maintain just in time (JIT) services, and to mitigate cost and risk while maintaining their services to this market.  In addition, there is a noticeable increase in activity from customers importing directly into Christchurch for South Island distribution.      


North to South Island

Auckland and North of Auckland on Coastal or via Cook Strait

  • (Coastal Option) Freight available in Auckland Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday – loaded on Thursday sailing ex Auckland to Lyttelton arriving Sunday evening; expected delivery the following week in Christchurch Monday/Tuesday, Mid/West Coast and lower South Island one additional working day.
  • (Coastal Option) Freight available in Auckland Wednesday/Thursday – loaded on second coastal sailing on Friday ex Auckland to Lyttelton arriving early Monday the following week; expected delivery in Christchurch Tuesday/Wednesday, Mid/West Coast and lower South Island one additional working day
  • (Cook Strait) Freight made available Fridays can only be sent via Cook Strait (no coastal option available), expected delivery Monday/Tuesday in Christchurch,  Mid/West Coast and lower South Island one additional working day
  • (Cook Strait) All freight on any given day destined to Upper South Island is via the Cook Strait corridor, expected delivery 2-4 working days

South of Auckland

  • All regional cities/towns south of Auckland do not have access to a viable coastal option; all services will be via the Cook Strait corridor.  Expected delivery 2-4 working days to Upper South Island and Christchurch region, one additional  day for Mid/West Coast and Lower South island.


South Island to North Island

Christchurch to Auckland and North of Auckland

  • Freight available in Christchurch Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday –despatched daily via the Cook Strait corridor;  Auckland 2-4 working days, North of Auckland one additional working day
  • Freight available in Christchurch Thursday/Friday – loaded on Sunday sailing ex Lyttelton arriving Auckland Wednesday; expected delivery Thursday/Friday in Auckland, North of Auckland one additional working day.

Christchurch to South of Auckland

  • Freight despatched daily via the Cook Strait corridor, expected delivery 2-5 working days depending on final delivery area

South Island into and out of the Marlborough region

  • Overnight service into and out of the region; next working day delivery

A full service schedule in more detail has been linked to this email as a concise service guideline.


Additional Points

We continue to closely monitor increasing fuel costs putting pressure on the current fuel adjustment factor (FAF).  

12:00pm 19 December 2016


The inland road into Kaikoura has reopened to the general public allowing greater certainty for movement of freight into and out of the region. State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura is also expected to open soon, providing another access to the region.  It is too early at this stage to determine what restrictions may be imposed.

The recent Government announcement allocating funds for reconstruction of the road and rail network along the east coast of the South Island was welcome news for all New Zealanders.  This is a long-term solution, and we don’t expect to see any significant change emerge until late 2017/early 2018.

KiwiRail has served notice of their intention to increase costs in December for all vehicles crossing on the Interislander ferries (between Islands).  In recent days we have managed to defer this increase until the end of January 2017.  We have always known the Cook Strait corridor was likely to attract higher costs and some access restrictions.  We continue to challenge and investigate existing and alternative services as we settle into the post-earthquake period, and will convey our findings to our customers in the New Year. 

The Port of Lyttelton has served notice of pending strike action this weekend, which may require additional consideration in how we move freight inter-Island (between Islands).

Intra-Island (within Island) seasonal volumes have been high, as retail and industry sectors deal with record trade.  As a result, some delays arose as our teams managed higher than anticipated seasonal volumes whilst allocating resource and equipment to address intra-Island challenges.  A concerted effort over this weekend has largely dealt with those lags, and we are back on track with expected services. 

The year ahead

We recommend in the New Year, after the seasonal pressure abates, that our customers look to calibrate their door-to-door supply chains with a 5-6 day North to South Island transit tolerance. South to North Island will be 4-5 days given increased capacity moving in this direction.

Transit options and methodology will be advised in the New Year as costs and new services emerge.  We have noticed a strong uptake with customers increasing or holding inventories in Christchurch & Auckland to maintain an intra-Island (within island) just in time (JIT) delivery promise.

The Mainfreight Group wishes to convey our appreciation for the manner in which our customers have worked at our side during these challenging times.

We wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.

11:00am 12 December 2016


We are disappointed that the introduction of a second dedicated coastal service now appears unlikely, due to unsustainable cost projections.  It appears a number of other transport entities have taken more of a short-term view by not supporting an alternative service at this time, and Government is reluctant to underwrite any shortfall.
Our concern is that there is little resilience or redundancy on either side of Cook Strait should another event arise, or the current situation worsen.  With the apparent removal of a second coastal vessel from the list of options, Government interests are reviewing alternatives such as commissioning emergency pontoons to service the ferries in Wellington, as they continue to come up with a “Plan B”.
Speed is now of the essence to reinstate road and rail links between Blenheim and Christchurch, otherwise the industry and the market have to become reconciled to higher costs and extended transits as the new norm for an extended period.  Whilst the current coastal provider has increased rates, we are expecting a similar outcome for ferry services on the Cook Strait as restrictions and additional infrastructure costs continue.    
The alternative route via the Lewis Pass is literally struggling to hold together.  Road crews continue to patch and fill pot holes all day.  The advent of hotter summer months will soften the bitumen which will further exacerbate the situation of dealing with the effects of continuous heavy traffic flows.   
There is some optimism circulating that the rail link down the Kaikoura Coast could be reinstated ahead of road, as it appears the rail tunnels have avoided significant damage.  The greatest challenge however is north of Kaikoura where slips and damage to bridges is significant.  
As we have always stated, when a full operating rail link is reinstated inter-Island (between Islands) our applicable surcharge will be removed.

Meeting Christmas deadlines

Time is closing in with limited coastal services available before Xmas.  Inter-Island (between islands) North to South Island service requirements should look to despatch as much as possible by Wednesday/Thursday to avoid limitations through the over-stretched Cook Strait corridor.  Equally South to North Island services should look to Friday this week as their key despatching date.
Intra-Island (within Island) deadlines can be retained into next week. Please be aware of receivers’ closing dates as some businesses traditionally close during the week (before 23rd Dec) leaving our freight docks full of undeliverable freight. We suggest next Wednesday 21st Dec is a key date to despatch Intra-Island (within an Island).

11:30am 8 December 2016


Services inter-Island (between Islands) are being maintained, utilising both coastal shipping and the Cook Strait corridors. South to North capacity has been increased to support North-South volumes.

All intra-island (within Island) services are coping with the seasonal influx, except that delays may arise in servicing the upper South Island from Christchurch, as heavy vehicles and public traffic converge through the Lewis Pass.

For planning purposes we strongly recommend our customers to target next Wednesday (14th Dec) as the last date to despatch inter-Island volume to meet Christmas delivery. Coastal options the following week will be too late, leaving the strained Cook Strait corridor as the only option.  


We have resumed limited services into Kaikoura from Christchurch via the inland track (SH70) from Culverden, subject to access. This is scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Daily Freight, Chemcouriers, Owens and Mainfreight operations.

Coastal Options

Mainfreight supports the logic of adding coastal capacity, with an additional vessel committed to a dedicated service between Auckland and Christchurch. The heart of New Zealand business remains small business enterprise accustomed to just in time (JIT) supply chains. Regrettably, the traditional inter-Island 2-3 day transits from door-to-door currently come at a high cost, and extending this beyond 5-6 days by utilising dedicated coastal services, tests business tolerance.  Deep sea vessels (International lines) may have capacity but they are constrained by sailing schedules, and close-off times on ports’ container-receiving procedures.   

Port of Wellington Update

We have received notices this week from a number of shipping lines advising that their services will temporarily omit Wellington until further notice. During this period, carriers will stop accepting any inbound and outbound cargo via Wellington, with the exception of some lines who continue to receive export containers at Wellington rail to be moved to Napier or Tauranga at the Shipper’s cost.

Any import shipments currently on the water consigned to Wellington will be discharged at an alternate port with further delivery under the consignee’s own risk and responsibility.

Due to this requirement, please ensure that any future import bookings are made directly to or from these alternate ports such as Napier, Tauranga or Auckland. Nelson and Lyttelton are suffering from the lack of rail services operating across the Cook Strait ferry, and should not be considered for Wellington bookings. It should also be noted that some ports (especially Napier) are receiving a substantial increase in container traffic due to the Wellington closure, and delays may be expected.

Wellington Port is now operational as a container depot only, so empty containers can be de-hired (with approval from the appropriate shipping line), and full containers collected (subject to availability).

Domestically the KiwiRail ferry Aratere is now fully operational, meaning we are able to shuttle containers across the Cook Strait using rail wagons as opposed to road trailers which improves capacity.

12:30pm 29 November 2016


We expect Government to pass legislation allowing contractors to push existing slip material into the sea along the Kaikoura Coast, avoiding the lengthy delays and costs of carting it away.  By all accounts this will speed up any reconstruction process by 8 months in itself.  We still don’t expect this road route will emerge for some time, given the concerns associated with additional unstable land formations along the coastal and inland routes.   

Whilst there is debate about the value in re-establishing the coastal rail links adjoining State Highway One, it is our opinion we have little choice but to reinstate the rail. This event alone has made a lot of New Zealanders aware of the significance of KiwiRail’s role and its influence on the transport sector.  Mainfreight has always been and remains a strong supporter of KiwiRail, understanding the many factors that make rail the best freight option for NZ.  Our geography, our tourism sector, environmental aspirations, least cost service, are all best served with fewer heavy vehicles thundering across the roads of our small nation.  

Coastal Options & the “Just in Time” (JIT) models

With rail links incapacitated, it stands to reason that coastal alternatives must assume the lead role to service inter-Island freight volumes.  This will require a change to the traditional inter-Island “Just in time” (JIT) supply chain model.  Attempting to retain 2-3 working day services from North to South Island will expose customers to possible disruption and certainly more cost as the road solution is exposed to further impediment.

Logic suggests that we will see the emergence of additional coastal capacity, and the addition of South & North Island warehouses, as customers look to adjust from an inter-Island (between Island)  JIT model to:

  • Coastal alternatives inter-Island (lowest risk of additional costs and service disruptions)
  • Ex warehouse for intra-Island (within an Island) overnight JIT services.

Intra-Island (within an Island)

We are not experiencing service issues for volumes moving within each Island at this time.  We expect services to come under typical seasonal pressure in coming days as December starts.  As reported in the media, the Wellington central business district continues to be impacted as discovery of additional dangerous buildings emerge, meaning delivery delays remain in these city zones.

Inter-Island (between Islands)

Customers who have already moved to increase stock cover (especially in the South Island) to avoid the expected capacity restraints in December – well done.  We have today and tomorrow left to despatch inter-Island ahead of the expected December rush.  It is important that our teams have as much time as possible, to diligently manage the loading task and maximise every available channel to move tonnage each day.  South Island-based customers especially should hustle for every bit of room available on their premises, tighten up aisles or storage areas, look to hire temporary on-site containers if necessary – just to provide the means to have buffer stock-on-hand, in the event that further disruptions arise that may compromise your high season.

Whilst there is more capacity moving South to North Island, recipient North Island customers should look to take a more considered approach for the reasons outlined above.

A Small Insight

Authorities are reporting that “The Lewis Pass route” is recording extraordinary numbers of heavy vehicles, up 400+%, which equates to over 700 trips a day or 16,800 tonnes in freight terms. Traditionally more than 50% of this volume would have be moved by rail down the East Coast of the South Island.  In coming days this could climb to over 1,000 heavy vehicle trips pounding down on this route. We have been ‘lucky’ that no further events or weather disruptions occurred over the weekend and up until today. The real challenge is the convergence of tourist and public traffic travelling along the same route.

12pm 25 November 2016

Today we provide a snapshot of the inter-Island services available between now and Xmas:

Road bridging via Cook Strait

  • North to South Island – Restricted capacity – Daily loading
  • South to North Island – Increased capacity – Daily loading 

Via dedicated coastal operator – Services between Auckland & Christchurch

  • North to South Island –  3 sailings remaining  1st, 8th, 15th December (cut off two days prior)
  • South to North Island –  4 sailings remaining   27th November, and  3rd, 10th, 17th December (cut off two days prior)

Via Deep Sea (a term used in reference to International flagged vessels) – Services between Auckland & Christchurch

  • North to South Island – Mix/match of services.  Our operation teams have the added pressure of a diminishing timeframe left to service door-to-door delivery via this channel, with a realistic arrival prior to Xmas. 
  • South to North Island –  Limited South to North services, as most shipping lines transit the NZ coast in a North to South direction before heading offshore again

Each of the inter-Island corridors shown above come with their own unique time and capacity limitations.  As we get closer to Christmas, pressure will increase to push volume down what is the most restricted and fragile corridor, i.e. road bridging via Cook Strait.   Concerns remains that this route it will not cope with these volumes for a number of reasons, including:

Risk of adverse weather or further earthquakes, heightened risk of accidents, holiday traffic, and Transit NZ or other government body intervention.

As communicated earlier, with now only 3 working days left before 1st December, we must grasp every opportunity to keep freight moving now. 

Surcharge Update

This trading week was the first week we commenced the application of a disruption surcharge to recover a contribution from our customers to sustain services.  This only applies to:

  • All inter-Island movements (between Islands); and
  • South Island movements in and out of the Marlborough region.  The Nelson region remains exempt at this time – whilst the Lewis Pass remains operational and State Highway 6 (Blenheim to Nelson) is unrestricted in any way.

11:30am 21 November 2016

The first weeks in December represent our single largest freight volume period.  As this time approaches, we urge senders and receivers to work closely together, to ensure the best utilisation of the finite daily capacity available.  Where possible, we recommend avoiding the traditionally heavy start-of-the-month trading.  At this time, a small accounting adjustment in credit terms between senders/receivers could offer significant relief moving exaggerated freight volumes through stressed Inter-Island corridors. We wish to avoid any service disappointments.

The Mainfreight way of “Start now and straighten it up later”, is proving its worth once again.  At present this includes establishing pop-up transfer branches, emergency accommodation, understanding fuelling logistics on key routes,  driver swapping, 24/7  shifts, and that’s just in the upper South Island.

Glimmers of good news are out there, including no further disruptive events arise over the weekend, the AB's redemption, and our own team of freight professionals who have kept the freight-moved scoreboard ticking over. Continual inventive improvements in our operations to bridge the Cook Strait services, have marginally increased handling capacity.  But we remain dependent on the shipping constraints on Cook Strait, and the road corridors in the South Island.

The Inter-Islander ferry Aratere (Road and Rail wagon capable) has been further delayed until the following week, due to port-side engineering challenges to reinstate the Link span (loading ramp) at the Port of Wellington.  Once operational, KiwiRail can increase container capacity by circulating rail wagons between transfer operations on both sides of the Cook Strait.  Likewise, it will allow us to reinstate a channel to move dangerous goods through the Cook Strait corridor, taking pressure off alternative coastal options.

The fact is that these Inter-Island disruptions will be here for some time, with consequent impacts on routes, capacity and cost – all three of which are intrinsically linked. It also highlights the importance of the Lewis Pass road link between the upper South Island and Christchurch.  If this access is impeded, the consequences will be unthinkable – leaving us all with the challenge of navigating capacity through the Arthur’s Pass corridor as the last road link alternative.  

After the first week, we have an added challenge with excess equipment stranded in the South Island resulting from the imbalance of North to South volumes.  Every avenue is being explored for least cost to repatriate equipment back North for recirculation. Each day this equipment plays an important role in maximising road, rail and coastal shipping options.

Investigations continue as we look to our team’s inventiveness to mitigate risks of added disruption, and ways we can expand capacity.

Positive customer participation, with open and honest dialogue during these unique times is vital, and hugely appreciated. 

1:00pm 18 November 2016

Our teams last night managed to continue Inter-Island services across the Cook Strait.  Freight services between the Marlborough region and South Island were maintained, albeit deliveries have slowed due to longer travel from/to Christchurch.  All other destinations within Islands were serviced as normal, except that delays remain in the Wellington region as they continue to address the additional task of Inter-Island bridging services. We ask for your tolerance should freight delays arise.

Our Vision

We are resigned to the fact that normal is a long way off, or possibly irretrievable.  Our primary focus remains to explore all avenues available to find additional capacity.  At this time, the total of all channels will struggle to cater for historic levels of demand.

The Cook Strait and pass roads within the South Island have restricted capacity.  Coastal shipping between Auckland and Lyttelton now plays a heightened role to take pressure off the Cook Strait.  We expect announcements to surface imposing restrictions through the Lewis Pass to allow large scale engineering work to commence.

Government agencies continue to liaise with our industry and are fully aware of the impact this would impose.

We no longer believe an option to divert a KiwiRail ferry between Wellington to Lyttelton will emerge.  Issues also arise with routing freight through the narrow Wellington corridor which will only exacerbate current congestion.

While the Cook Strait corridor remains at a premium, those customers who traditionally send bulk tonnage via rail/coastal services will face additional constraints.  We again ask customers to send freight in smaller increments to allow our operational teams to maintain consistent flows and employ every option available to keep the freight moving.

We are currently investigating the option to take on additional warehousing capacity in Christchurch, to allow customers to increase their stock-holdings to service the South Island. We believe this solution will play an important role in the future design of best cost to serve supply chains. Our current capacity is now heavily supported by existing customers.

We do have some capacity remaining in Auckland to assist South Island customers or importers servicing North Island destinations.

Additionally, we believe customers who import stock should consider commissioning supply directly into either Christchurch or Auckland to avoid challenges Inter-Island. Our Mainfreight Air & Ocean teams are on standby to assist further. 


Weekend Services - Cook Strait

We are currently reviewing requirements to maintain freight flows across the Cook Strait over the weekend, whilst remaining considerate of our team's welfare. 

1:00pm 17 November 2016


  • Inter-Island services continue to operate, with restrictions remaining in place.  
  • Services into and out of Christchurch servicing the upper South Island were maintained last night, some capacity restrictions remain.
  • North Island volumes into/out of Wellington are being maintained. Due to operational challenges, as we manage the services to bridge the Cook Strait, we ask for tolerance with expected delivery delays. Adverse weather yesterday in this region has not helped, and our vehicles are contending with disruptions arising from road repairs.  Earthquake damage has affected access to the Wellington CBD.   
  • All other destinations within each Island are operating as normal.


The Mainfreight Group has commissioned a pop-up freight transfer operation at Spring Creek. (Spring Creek is situated 20kms inland from the main ferry berth in Picton and 5kms from the Blenheim Township. It serves as a secondary staging area for rail wagons to service the greater Marlborough region.)  

This operation allows us to push more volume at the least cost across the Cook Strait. The use of specialised containers loaded on road-based pull and drop trailers between our Wellington operation and Spring Creek allows for improved utilisation on the ferries, and is a counter-measure to the much higher costs and restrictions placed on self-driven road units. Our intention remains to minimise costs to our customers whilst seeking ways to open up capacity.  

Cook Strait Ferry Overview

KiwiRail has three ferries; two of which are currently operational – Kaiarahi & Kaitaki (Road and Passenger capable). The Aratere (Road and Rail wagon capable) is suspended whilst the Linkspan (ramp) in Wellington is repaired for road and wagon access. Early reports are this may be available next week. When it returns it will open more capacity utilising rail wagons to shuttle containers between our operations on either side of the Cook Strait.

It’s our understanding that the Bluebridge/StraitShipping is currently operating with one ferry, the Straitsman, which has a self-loading ramp and is operational taking freight only, whilst the Strait Feronia ferry is suspended whilst their ground based Linkspan (ramp) is under repair in Wellington.  

Our teams servicing these bridging operations are to be commended. The Spring Creek operation is vulnerable to adverse weather given existing buildings and infrastructures are minimal. The Spring Creek team also have to contend with noise restrictions outside 7.00am and 7.00pm due to the proximity of residential housing.  We are working with local authorities and government agencies to address these restrictions, as it is evident these service channels are becoming critical.

Lewis Pass

We have significantly expanded road services between Christchurch to Spring Creek and Inter-Island. The Lewis Pass is now an important route in terms of at least cost and allowable driving hours. The Pass has been impacted with significant slips and road damage that tests our most professional drivers. Repair crews continue to ramp up road works with single lane access in many places. These are coming under pressure as North and South-bound heavy traffic clash. General public are compounding the challenge.

Coastal Services

Our teams continue to support and grow capacity on the coastal services.  The main Auckland to Christchurch service departs Auckland on a Friday arriving into Lyttelton on the Monday. Navigating port congestion, freight is often available in our Christchurch depots on Tuesday for local delivery, or on forwarding to other South Island destinations.  Other International vessels offering limited coastal services are considered daily. Our operation teams continue to load on the basis of capacity and equipment available to route by Coast or via the Cook Strait.

Evidence is that normal services are some way off as the magnitude of the earthquake effects on road and rail infrastructures is understood. Our goal remains to minimise cost whilst opening Inter-Island capacity through conventional and alternative channels.  We will continue to work with our customers who are traditionally reliant on rail services, to move bulk tonnages where able. 

1:30pm 16 November 2016


Firstly, our Mainfreight family have asked that we convey their appreciation to all our customers who are taking a pragmatic approach to working with us in these challenging times.  Please be assured that this greatly assists team morale and gives us the energy to push through, thank you.

The Wellington region is now accessible and services have resumed. We ask that our customers liaise with their regular service provider in the Mainfreight group as we look to accept a measured increase in freight into the affected regions.  

We continue to field increased levels of enquiry from the market to provide services into these regions; these are being declined as our teams remain focused on servicing existing customers as a priority.

Traditional Services (Normal)

New Zealanders are quickly coming to terms with the importance of a working national rail network, and the implications that arise with the likes of the events we all face today. New Zealand presents a unique demographic with the majority of the population and commerce based in the North Island. For every tonne of freight that moves North to South, South to North, generates just a third of this volume in return. The majority of the tonnage is moved via rail.

Current Services

As we are moving from the "Reactionary" phase into a Remedial phase, limitations have been realised and solutions continue to emerge as a means to navigate the challenges. Traditional capacity North to South has been restricted to 30% of (Normal) available capacity at this time due to Cook Strait (Inter-Islander) constraints and equipment availability. The Mainfreight group is primarily focused on expanding channels North to South, including capturing space on coastal alternatives, and commissioning new and expanded specialist handling hubs on both sides of the Cook Strait.

Road is now the dominant service mode, with increased bridging services deployed between the Marlborough Region and the rest of the South Island, serviced via our Christchurch hubs, but equally we are experiencing increased demand within the North Island into the Wellington region. Unexpected cost-to-enact services are currently being funded by Mainfreight.

The earthquakes have triggered a "Force Majeure Event" meaning, due to circumstances arising from a natural event beyond our control, the Mainfreight Group can no longer remain compliant with cost and service obligations that existed contractually in writing or by verbal agreement.

Due to these unforeseen forced operational changes and extended transit times required to service freight Inter-Island and Intra-Island between the Marlborough region and the mid to lower South Island, we regretfully must look to our customers to make a contribution to allow us to sustain these services.

As a result, a separate disruption surcharge will be introduced and will apply to all Inter-Island freight movements, and to all movements between the Marlborough region and mid to lower South Island destinations (e.g., freight from North Island to Christchurch will incur a surcharge; freight from Timaru to Blenheim will incur a surcharge, etc.).  In addition the following will apply:

  • Should the Lewis Pass close or imposed restrictions arise for an extended period, Mainfreight may review our position.
  • Should a consistent ferry option between Wellington and Lyttelton materialise, Mainfreight will look to reduce the fee where appropriate
  • On the resumption of normal rail and road services between Picton and Christchurch via State Highway One, this fee will be removed

The surcharge will take effect from Monday 21st November.  We have respectfully provided as much notice as possible to allow customers a chance to readjust freight requirements accordingly. We ask for your consideration, not to inundate our operations with freight volumes ahead of this date to avoid this surcharge.

Our operational teams will use their best endeavours to determine which channel or mode is available to service freight between Islands; nomination of services is restricted.

4:30pm 15 November 2016


  • Deteriorating weather around the lower NI and upper SI is starting to cause new issues.
  • New slips are emerging and existing ones are further compromised with heavy rain.
  • Flooding on the main trunk line 25 km north of Wellington has now closed rail into and out of Wellington.
  • Capacity available to move rail-based freight ex Auckland on the main trunk to Wellington/Blenheim is extremely limited due to wagon supply and demand.
  • The linkspan (ramp) that serves the Aratere (rail and road) in Wellington is still out of action and a timeframe to reinstate it is not known. This would introduce an option to bridge containers across the Cook Strait to our container handling operation at Spring Creek on steel wagons as opposed to road trailers.
  • No update is available from KiwiRail as they continue to explore commissioning services between Wellington and Lyttelton with the Kaitaki.


  • Flooding in the upper South Island is creating new challenges.
  • Updates are arriving hourly as Transit NZ continues to determine access through the Lewis Pass. At this time it is open.
  • Flooding in Wellington has severed access to move freight into and out of the region and links into Cook Strait services.
  • Current freight volumes in transit will be further delayed as a result.

We will provide a further update in the morning.


9:30am 15 November 2016

Firstly we wish to publicly acknowledge the efforts and commitment of our teams working in stressful and challenging circumstances; many working extended hours to service our customers. We are heading into a planning phase that includes our team’s welfare, covering topics of sleep deprivation, mental and physical fatigue. Freight and warehousing operations in affected regions will make this a priority topic. We also offer thoughts to our customers battling similar challenges at this time. Experience tells us events such as this move between phases – Discovery (first 48 hours) – Reaction (second 48 hours) – Remedial (ongoing).     

  • An overnight survey confirms damage to rail lines in the Seddon and Kaikoura districts on the Picton to Christchurch line are severe. It is estimated a repair timeline will be measured in months, making this route inoperable for some time.
  • Transit NZ (Road) has not provided a statement concerning the same route. We expect similar or longer repair timelines to emerge today as engineers carry out further assessments.
  • Last night KiwiRail managed to commission the Linkspan (ramp) in Wellington for road loading/unloading vehicles only onto/off Inter-Islander ferries. Rail wagons remain out of the question at this time.
  • It has been reported by KiwiRail that they are investigating an option to commission direct services between Wellington and Lyttelton with the ferry “Kaitaki”. By all accounts unloading/loading services are possible at Lyttelton. Maritime and agency authorities are working with KiwiRail at this time
  • All track south of Christchurch and to the West coast has been surveyed and cleared for use.

Inter-Island (between Islands)

  • Coastal options are underway with Pacifica and alternative internationally-flagged vessels between Auckland to Lyttelton and return. 
  • A freight shuttle service between Christchurch and Spring Creek Blenheim and vice-versa is being commissioned by Mainfreight in the next 24 hours to bridge freight to a pop-up depot to load and unload containers at Spring Creek for shuttling onto and off Cook Strait sailings, with pull trailers into/from Wellington. We appreciate team who have volunteered to relocate to the region to commission this operation
  • Last night our Christchurch teams managed to send some road units via the Arthur’s Pass route (normal + 7 additional transit hours) into the Upper South Island.
  • We also have limited access via the Lewis Pass this morning for a period of time to allow a (normal + 3 hour) transit

Intra-Island (within Islands)

  • KiwiRail resumed services into and out of Wellington last night. This will allow us some relief to move freight into and out of this region. Wagon supply remains the key issue that impedes this option.
  • We are working with fuel companies to determine whether there are fuelling services on the South Island routes that are not normally our first preference, to cater for these changes.
  • As we head into warmer/holiday periods we are mindful of the additional challenge of higher public traffic and tourist volumes channelling through these routes.
  • Safety is a key consideration as more heavy equipment is employed on our roads to service freight requirements. With extended driving hours, additional drivers and rest periods is a high planning priority   
  • All other services remain normal on either Island


3:30pm 14 November 2016


Further to earlier communication, it is now evident that infrastructure damage will impede normal services. 

  • KiwiRail is yet to fully survey and report any detailed track damage south of Waikanae to Wellington, Picton to Christchurch and trans-alpine routes. We expect a more definitive update tomorrow. We do know a significant slip on the East Coast of the South Island will close the track for an extended period.
  • Rail wagon supply is restricted as equipment is not able to be circulated between islands or regions.
  • Damage remains to the linkspan (loading ramp) in Wellington, which is critical in the loading and unloading of road and rail units on and off the Inter-Island ferries. KiwiRail appears hopeful to report back a timeline to complete repairs tomorrow.
  • Major slips and road collapses on coastal routes in the Kaikoura region have closed State Highway 1, both north and south-bound.
  • We await a report concerning alternative main road options between Blenheim/Nelson via the Lewis Pass or West Coast Arthur's Pass route into and out of Christchurch.
  • Numerous regional areas remain cut off and isolated due to road damage or slips. Services into Kaikoura are suspended at this time.
  • Wellington and Christchurch have numerous inbound rail wagons awaiting placement into our terminals by KiwiRail that were sent on Friday last week. KiwiRail is working to place these as soon possible. 


  • Our Auckland and Christchurch teams are sourcing as much capacity and equipment as possible to expand coastal shipping options.
  • Service delays are imminent as coastal services will be impacted by port congestion and on-board space restrictions due to this event and seasonal imports.
  • We are recommending to our Inter-Island customers to consider increasing stockhold in either our Christchurch or Auckland warehouses as an option to mitigate ongoing Inter-Island transit delays during this challenging period.
  • Customers should be aware that normal 3-5 day services will require extensions as alternative modes and capacity are determined.
  • The intention is to resume limited Cook Strait road bridging services once the ferries commence sailings and main road routes are cleared by Transit NZ
  • An alternative option to add additional freight capacity to counter the loss of rail wagons is being investigated. It will likely incorporate commissioning a container trans-ship operation either side of the Cook Strait; more will be communicated tomorrow. 


  • South-bound services into Wellington will be limited as normal rail volumes compete for limited and increased road space into this region.
  • Christchurch to Upper South Island destinations routed through either the Lewis or Arthur's passes may require additional time due to more challenging road conditions.
  • All other South and North Island services remain unchanged.

Further updates will be provided as our teams assess information as it arises. We are working hard in these regions and elsewhere to assemble service options. We ask that tolerance is accorded around the use of booking or time specific requests in the Wellington and Christchurch regions until such time as normal services can be resumed.


 8:30am 14 November 2016

Just after midnight New Zealand time (14 November 2016) a severe earthquake struck the Mid-South Island region of New Zealand. Ongoing aftershocks continue as day light emerges and damage assessments continue.

We can report that rail services in the lower North Island and South Island are suspended pending track inspections. Inter-Island rail services have been cancelled until further notice. State Highway One north of Christchurch and outlaying regional road networks have suffered damage with road closures in place. Engineers at first day light will commence inspections to bridges and other infrastructure. An early Tsunami warning for the East Coast region appears to have abated albeit a warning remains in low laying areas.

What we know:

  • State Highway 1 has been closed from Picton to Waipara, north of Christchurch, this covers 278.6km, including Kaikoura.
  • State Highway 7 from Waitara to Springs Junction has also been closed.
  • The road to Hanmer Springs has been affected by a slip which has blocked both lanes on the eastern side of the Waiau Ferry Bridge.
  • The Lyttelton Tunnel (State Highway 74), which links Christchurch with the seaside suburb of Lyttelton, has been closed until further notice.
  • There have been Tsunami warnings for the entire East Coast and people are being warned to stay away from beaches and the coastline.
  • Wellington has also been badly hit by the earthquake, people are being warned to stay in their homes and away from the CBD.

You can read more here.

Freight Disruptions

Early reports concerning the welfare of our team appear favourable with no injuries or significant damage to personal property. At 5.00 am this morning the Wellington council publically announced a recommendation that workers stay at home due to passenger rail services suspended and the CBD requiring clearance from structural engineers for safety purposes. Other outlaying towns and parts of Christchurch are equally disrupted.

Where practical we will endeavour to provide limited delivery services for freight already in our Wellington and Christchurch depots. To avoid unnecessary congestion at this time whilst connections into these regions have been severely impacted we advise early that we will suspend collecting general freight destined for these two regions and outlaying districts until further notice. Our teams will look to prioritise the movement of critical supplies such as food as options emerge. Our operational teams are currently surveying all possible options to navigate network blockages as information comes available.


We can report that our Christchurch warehouses have escaped any structural or stock damage after our initial inspections. It appears our buildings and racking engineering design has performed to expected earthquake standards. We advise customers that there may be some delays fulfilling orders while our teams systematically carry out cautionary safety procedures inspecting stock in high racking locations.


It is paramount that our customers notify their customers of imminent delays to avoid unnecessary communication repetition as our teams look to focus on the challenges in front of them at this time.

We will proactively update you as more information comes to hand during the day.

Photo credit: stuff.co.nz