Zespri welcomes MV Kowhai into its shipping fleet

The MV Kowhai arrived at the Port of Tauranga to begin loading Zespri Kiwifruit ahead of its maiden voyage to Japan. Photos: Supplied

The New Zealand kiwifruit industry will be boosted by three specialised reefer vessels following significant investment by operator Fresh Carriers, underpinned by their confidence in the kiwifruit industry and their longstanding relationship with Zespri.

The first of three vessels, MV Kowhai, arrived at the Port of Tauranga on Friday morning to begin loading 4,219 tonnes of Zespri Kiwifruit ahead of its maiden kiwifruit voyage bound for Japan.

Zespri’s Chief Global Supply Officer Alastair Hulbert joined the commemoration event with a number of industry colleagues at the Port of Tauranga, and is pleased to mark the start of the vessel’s working life.

“Zespri is committed to building lasting relationships with our partners around the world and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry has benefitted immensely from the partnership we’ve forged with Fresh Carriers and their New Zealand-based agents Oceanic Navigation over the last 30 years,” says Alastair.

“Safely and quickly transporting our fruit to market is critical, and our charter vessel programme has been a significant element of our industry’s success including the service that Fresh Carriers provides to our North Asian ports, and also in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 this year."

“We’re really proud to see this level of investment in new vessels which highlights the confidence and commitment we both share not only in the future of our partnership, but in the growth potential of the kiwifruit industry, and we’re looking forward to seeing the ship deliver our fruit to even more consumers in the years ahead,” says Alastair.

In recognition of the fact kiwifruit would be the main cargo transported, Fresh Carriers provided the kiwifruit industry with the opportunity to name the three new ships. Former grower Lynda Hawes’ suggestion of Kowhai was selected, symbolising the golden kiwifruit that continues to strengthen the bond between New Zealand and Japan, with the remaining two ships to be named Kakariki (Green) and Whero (Red), ensuring a full spread of Zespri’s portfolio of golden, green and red kiwifruit.

Oceanic Navigation Director Bruce Nisbet is delighted to see the MV Kowhai berth in New Zealand, and says the new vessels will play a significant role in shipping increasing volumes of New Zealand-grown kiwifruit in the years ahead.

“Each year Fresh Carriers transports around 190,000 tonnes of kiwifruit from New Zealand, and we’re pleased to deliver the first of our three brand new vessels that will ship fruit to some of Zespri’s top Asian markets,” says Bruce.

“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 enable remote monitoring of fruit conditioning.

“Zespri are one of the most successful fruit companies worldwide and one of the most committed to chartering specialised reefer vessels for their shipping needs. It is evident that maintaining control of their logistics into key global markets has underpinned Zespri’s success.”

With global operating revenue of NZ$3.36 billion in 2019/20, Zespri is one of the world's most successful horticulture marketing companies and the Zespri brand is recognised as the world leader in premium quality kiwifruit.

Based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Zespri is 100 per cent owned by current or past kiwifruit growers, and employs over 600 people in New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the Americas.  On behalf of our 2,800 growers in New Zealand and 1,500 growers based elsewhere Zespri manages kiwifruit innovation and supply management, distribution management and marketing of Zespri Green, Zespri SunGold, Zespri Organic, Zespri Gold, Zespri Sweet Green and Zespri Red Kiwifruit. 

Fresh Carriers supplied 35 vessels to ship Zespri Kiwifruit to key North Asia ports this season, which is around 30 per cent of this season’s fruit.

Fresh Carriers President Mr Takeshige is honoured to have worked with Zespri and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry for the last 30 years, and to have built a strong partnership.

“Despite the current disruption caused by COVID-19 around the world, Zespri has had a successful season which convinces us that the decision to build the new ships for Zespri has been the right one,” says Mr Takeshige.

Fresh Carriers Co Ltd., Tokyo are the leading specialised reefer carrier company in the Pacific region and have been carrying New Zealand-grown kiwifruit for over 35 years. They operate a core fleet of 15 ships, increasing to around 20 during the peak of the kiwifruit season. Ships generally arrive in New Zealand carrying cars from Japan, and bananas and pineapples from the Philippines. The new ships are built to ensure they maintain a modern, efficient fleet to serve all their customers shipping requirements for the foreseeable future.

MV Kowhai is set to depart the Port of Tauranga today, Saturday October 31. It marks Zespri’s second-to-last charter reefer vessel this season and it will stop at Tokyo and Kobe.

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