Port of Tauranga volume down in first quarter

Port of Tauranga has experienced a 24.6 percent fall in container volumes in the first quarter and a 7.7 percent fall in trade, but profit after tax is up 0.2 percent for the period.

The port is continuing to predict that annual earnings will be similar to last year's.

"Whilst it is pleasing that we have maintained earnings on reduced trade, it would not be wise to simply extrapolate the earnings position linearly to year end," chief executive Mark Cairns told shareholders at the annual meeting yesterday.

The port had earnings of $45m after tax last year, which it said was pleasing in the current economic environment.

Mr Cairns said forestry volumes now represented 61 percent of the port's exports and 38 percent of total trade.

He said Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries forecasts of annual export volumes from central North Island forests suggested the port should plan for volumes of 5 million tonnes of forestry exports per annum over the medium term.

Chairman John Parker again raised the issue of port rationalisation, but he said government intervention was not necessary to make it happen.

Mr Parker noted a Fonterra estimate of $2 billion to $3 billion of savings if larger container ships were introduced to New Zealand.

"This port is the obvious North Island hub port," he said.

Mr Cairns said the port had lodged resource consent applications to widen and dredge its harbour channels to provide a 14.5m draught at the lowest possible tide.

Once the consents were secured dredging could be initiated in a timely manner, as and when required by market demand.

Bill Capamagian and Bill Baylis were re-elected as directors at the meeting.

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