On 19 June 1971 the first all-container ship to visit New Zealand, the Columbus New Zealand, berthed at Wellington’s new Thorndon Container Terminal. In eight days on the coast, the German-owned Columbus Line vessel also called at Auckland and Port Chalmers.
That schedule turned heads. According to the Waterfront Industry Commission’s very precise number-crunchers, in 1971 the average ship on the same run spent a frustrating 34.63 days in Kiwi ports. Worse, it wasted 10.53 of those days anchored in the stream, waiting for a berth, awaiting labour or held up by bad weather. All that time the ship incurred harbour dues, electricity and water charges and labour costs while earning nothing for the shipping line.