The pipfruit export season at the Port of Napier container terminal : an exploratory case study : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Massey University, Palmerston North
This is an exploratory study seeking to gain a better understanding of seasonality at the
Port of Napier container terminal. It seeks to explore the motives behind the actions of
the pipfruit exporters, and analyse the impact seasonal reefer (refrigerated containers)
volumes have on terminal operations. The case study method is employed because it
reflects the interpretive assumptions adopted for the study, and has the tools to analyse
the qualitative and quantitative data collected.
The study revealed the exporters source most of their fruit from their own and leased
orchards. The guaranteed volumes justify the investments made in fruit handling
facilities. The balance of their fruit comes from contract growers where the exporters
seek to establish long term relationships to minimise supply uncertainty. The exporters
look to using their own fruit handling facilities, before passing any fruit to third parties,
because of the greater flexibility afforded by prioritising shipments in their own
The exporters have invested in information systems that have automated most of the
previously manual processes, and assist with managing the complexity of compliance,
improving visibility in their operations, and satisfying the traceability requirements of
their customers. The exporters have retail programs in place with customers in their
traditional markets (US and Europe) that enable them to manage their work load for the
entire season. The exporters have increasingly directed marketing efforts to the fixed
price markets in mostly Asia, the Middle East and Russia, because the upfront
payments, shorter transit times and fixed prices, reduce the risk of serving the markets.
The fixed price sales are very much on short notice and present unique challenges on
logistic systems, as the emphasis is on expediting shipments to get the best prices. The
success of exclusive varieties and licensed orchards give the exporters much hope,
particularly with the latter, as they are able to maintain fresh supplies all year round.
The exporters select shipping lines on the basis of transit times and port calls but are in
reality, at the mercy of the powerful shipping lines They have to base their marketing
plans on the schedules of the lines. Chartering offers a way around the rigid schedules
of the shipping lines, though only one exporter currently exercises this option.
The impact of the pipfruit export season in the terminal is evident on its impact on
several aspects of terminal operations. Container vessel calls increase, as shipping lines
deploy ‘extra loaders’ to complement their regular services to deal with the added cargo
volumes. Vessel exchange times lengthen to reflect the increase in containers
exchanged. Reefer capacity utilisation rises well above the average, though reefer dwell
times decrease to reflect the pressure exporters work under during the season that
almost reduces them to packing reefers just-in-time for vessels. The number of
rehandles rises to mimic the added container volumes as the terminal employs strategies
to cope with the scarcity of reefer space.