Chch port company to float cruise ship plan
Lyttelton Port of Christchurch will approach local councils and the Government to help fund a plan to extend one of its wharves to provide a dedicated cruise ship facility for visitors to the city.
Chief executive Peter Davie said LPC was planning the physical extension of its Cashin Quay facility, primarily for a cruise ship base, with details of the concept project 80 per cent to 90 per cent complete.
The move follows Prime Minister John Key's announcement of the Government's plan to develop Queen's Wharf in Auckland as "party central" for the Rugby World Cup 2011, and a dedicated cruise ship facility.
The Government and the Auckland Regional Council have each paid $20 million to buy the wharf from Ports of Auckland, with Auckland City Council having voted on a $84m plan to revamp that wharf.
Davie said the port had been encouraged by comments Key had made as Minister of Tourism that cruise ship facilities were necessary in the major ports.
Finding funding for the project would be reflected in the fact that the cruise ship industry benefited communities and the Government through a tax take.
"At some stage [this year] we'll be having discussions with Government and government officials about how we can put something together," he said.
"We're starting to talk to other interested bodies about how we can fund it for the wider community benefit." Local councils would also be approached, he added.
The potential cost of such a project could not be disclosed at this stage, Davie said.
Freight volumes through Lyttelton had held up reasonably in the global recession.
Container volumes within the financial year to June 30 were on budget and slightly ahead of the same period a year earlier, Davie said.
There was some 30 per cent to 40 per cent fall-off in car imports year on year, with fertiliser imports also down.
But on the positive side, log export volumes through the port were well up, as at other ports like Tauranga, and other imports for manufacturers were also reasonable.
"We're trading in line with our forecast expectations from a financial perspective," which was good news in the difficult economic climate, Davie said.
At its half-year result in late February, LPC forecast its bottom-line annual result would be a $10m net profit after reporting a $10.34m profit for the June 2008 year. Davie said there was no change to that forecast.
He said the Cosco shipping line service to Japan and Asia through the port was being reduced to once a week from twice a week. But given that Cosco would start to use bigger ships on the run, that reduction would not have a large impact on LPC.
A working party was still working through a consultative process to explore a merger with rival Port Otago, which holds a small stake in LPC, said Davie.
"Discussions are still moving, and things are still moving positively ahead.
"They are looking at whether a business case makes sense, and when that's completed that will come back to our respective boards."
Shares in LPC have held up better than the NZX 50 during the months of the world financial and economic crisis and last traded at $2.30 within a 12-month range of $2.01 to $2.69.