Ports of Auckland has made a bold foray onto Port of Tauranga’s turf, announcing today that it will be the main customer of NZL Group’s planned container terminal at the Tauranga port.
NZL Group is planning to start its own terminal operations at Port of Tauranga on port land using the port’s existing cranes.
NZL Group director Ken Harris says a choice of which port gateway to use is attractive for shipping companies and exporters.
“It gives you an efficiency option – ‘should I take it there, or there?’
“There’s no question that ports operating as a network yet still maintaining a competitive model is very exciting,” he says.
Ports of Auckland managing director Jens Madsen says Ports of Auckland is looking forward to the re-establishment of NZL’s Sulphur Point terminal and to being able to add a Tauranga option to its existing product range.
“This gives us an entry point into the Bay of Plenty and access to existing infrastructure,” he says.
NZL Group says it has the right to set up its own terminal because sister company P&O Ports used to have a container operation at Tauranga, which was merged into the port’s own activities in 2003.
At that point P&O Ports agreed to a five-year period in which it would not resume operations; this has now expired.
However, Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns says the use of the phrase “container terminal” is misleading, and that P&O Ports was just one of the stevedoring and marshalling operations at the port.
“Therefore, at best, NZL’s rights extend to being a marshalling and stevedoring contractor,” he says.
Mr Cairns says he’s confident that the operation presents no commercial threat to Port of Tauranga.
“I just can’t see how this can offer value to our customers,” he says, pointing out that Port of Tauranga benefits from extra cargo coming through the port, from wharfage and crane use fees.
“I can’t understand Ports of Auckland’s strategy at all, but that’s not unusual.”
Mr Harris would not be drawn on how NZL Group’s plans are to be funded.
“We’re a private company, we’re not really going to make comments on how we fund our operation,” he says.
But assistance from Ports of Auckland was not ruled out: “there’s still quite a range of discussions on how we secure systems and plant and things like that, I certainly don’t rule out talking to any party.”
Mr Harris says Ports of Auckland taking an equity stake in NZL was not being contemplated.