No need of panic about upper North Island ports

A report on ports in the upper North Island kills the idea that Northland's natural deep-water port may one day be a hub for container ships and does not see New Zealand becoming a branch of an Australian hub port, either.

The report by PwC commissioned by the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance also sees no need for a new port in the upper North Island or any need for existing ports to rush to invest in infrastructure to cater for larger container ships.

The alliance is made up of representatives from the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty councils.

"Shipping lines expect to continue to serve New Zealand with smaller ships in the interim," the report says.

There is no significant risk for exporters and importers associated with the timing of ports' investment with respect to larger container ships. The report's solution to a forecast increase in trade over the next 30 years is for ports to become more efficient.

It says New Zealand ports are inefficient and have poor technology. If they improve they can handle projected demand for many decades.

For years there has been debate about how long Auckland can have a commercial port on the waterfront of its central business district and development of Whangarei's port has been seen as a long-term alternative.

But PWC says there would have to be a significant reduction in New Zealand's high land transport costs before a container port at Whangarei "would make sense".

It says Ports of Auckland is below the New Zealand average on the efficiency measure of containers moved per crane per hour and Port of Tauranga is more efficient.

All ports need to improve technology, particularly by adopting automated container stacking systems to increase capacity in container yards.

Port capacity can be created by operational efficiencies, particularly in container handling and storage.

But the report does acknowledge that if Ports of Auckland cannot expand its footprint growth will need to be accommodated at other upper North Island ports.

New Zealand ports are moving to a "hub and spoke" model and regional ports such as Timaru and Wellington were losing out, it says.

But New Zealand is not likely to become a spoke to an Australian hub port because ports across the Tasman also lack capacity to handle larger ships.

Each council will formally receive and consider the report at their appropriate December 2012 council or committee meetings.


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Accept that NZ ports are not as efficient as they should be. Shipping lines may use smaller ships for the NZ trade for the next 30 years, but at what cost? NZ will pay through the nose for its goods if the shipping line/s use smaller ships. Obviously, it's economies of scale and the fifth generation of container ships which can't get into any NZ ports because of insufficient depth will provide a cheaper rate for freight.

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