Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Honey exporter stuck in sticky situation

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‘Broken-down piece of crap’ ship has $150,000 of his honey on board.
Manawatū honey producer Jason Prior says authorities have told him it is ‘not their problem, it is for the shipping company and insurers to sort out. It is hard to find anyone who cares.’
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A mechanically dodgy ship is making the pathway to export a treacherous one for Manawatū honey producer Jason Prior.

Prior is one of dozens of exporters caught up in the saga of beleaguered Singapore-flagged ship the MV Shiling. 

The 66,000t vessel has been dogged by mechanical issues and after departing the port of Wellington in May lost power off Farewell Spit and had to be towed back to port.

Prior is anxiously assessing the chances his $150,000 worth of high-grade honey destined for a Singapore buyer will now even make it to market, given the uncertainty he has about the ship’s ability to make the journey successfully.

“I am told the motor on the thing is basically stuffed. It has oil all through it, which has had to be burnt off, and the hope is it is due to sail this week. 

“We were not even supposed to have our honey on this boat. It is a broken-down piece of crap.” 

His honey consignment has already been paid for by his Singapore client, but he said the issues with the order’s delivery will make them reluctant to re-order in future.

Prior’s order departed with the Shiling in early April, only to have the ship towed into Wellington harbour the following month, where it remains.

Since then he has been compelled to embark on a complex course in marine law that has left him frustrated and anxious about his product.

“I have pushed Mainfreight on the issue and they have said a ‘general average’ claim has been lodged by Cosco’s insurer.” 

“General average” under maritime law is a principle that requires all parties affected by losses due to a shipping issue to proportionally share those losses across all parties, including both carrier and cargo owners.

General average can apply to a ship that is salvaged after an event, including a breakdown.

“And they are saying it is not salvaged until it reaches Singapore.” 

The legal wrangling is deepening and Prior said he understands there is an agreement in place that the ship will be accompanied by a deep-sea tug until New Zealand’s 200-mile exclusive economic boundary, after which it is in international waters to Singapore.

“My worry then is that if it breaks down in the tropics our honey will be a granulated mess. We don’t know when it will get there, and we can’t claim insurance until it gets to Singapore.”

Getting the honey off the ship would cost him 25% of the honey’s value, plus a share of $70,000 to remove the container and trans-ship.

Prior said the experience has highlighted for him how little  expertise there appears to be in NZ about maritime law and its complexities – ironic, given the fact NZ is an island nation.

“I am told by authorities it is not their problem, it is for the shipping company and insurers to sort out,”  Prior said.

“It is hard to find anyone who cares. 

“I have learnt that exporting is definitely not for the faint hearted.”

As of June 28, the vessel search site VesselFinder had the MV Shiling still anchored in Wellington harbour.

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