Logs carry Napier Port's profit higher

JAMES WEIR
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Log exports through Napier Port are booming, along with record levels of wood pulp and sawn timber, sending profits soaring by almost 7 per cent to $11.8 million for the September year.

The past summer's drought also meant it handled more meat and wool, but fertiliser imports fell.

The port company is also expecting to handle much bigger ships in future, it says in its annual report.

Napier Port's total revenues were up 3 per cent to $62 million for the year to the end of September. The company paid a dividend of $6.1 million to its shareholder, the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company.

Napier Port is now New Zealand's fourth largest container terminal after Auckland, Tauranga and Lyttelton, with container volumes up almost 4 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes.

It handled a record 206,000 TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) in the past year.

Non-containerised cargo volumes grew almost 10 per cent in the past year, an increase mainly driven by the forestry sector.

The standout was log exports, up 23 per cent in the year to a record 1.2 million tonnes.

Logs are going through the port from a wide area, including the central North Island and as far away as Manawatu/Wanganui and Wairarapa regions. Napier Port expected the trend to continue and planned to invest in the port so it could handle more wood products.

Log tonnages through the port have jumped 66 per cent in the past five years and volumes were expected to double in the next ten years.

The port company said it had committed to $150 million on replacing plant and infrastructure development in the next decade.

Two new cranes worth about $10 million were commissioned last month to help lift productivity

During the year the port attracted Winstone Pulp International's business back to Napier after many years, which helped lift pulp and timber volumes from the central North Island WPI plant.

But the full effect would only be seen in the coming 2014 financial year when 240,000 tonnes is projected to go through the port.

Container volumes were also boosted by a record near-243,000 tonne apple crop exported during the season.

And as a direct result of the drought the port handled more meat, wool, skins and by-products as farmers were forced to de-stock after the severe dry period last summer. That would have a minor negative effect in the coming year as farmers rebuild stock levels.

The drought saw fertiliser import volumes fall, with fertiliser ship visits down by a quarter in the year. However, overall import volumes were steady, up 1 per cent.

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Total ship visits were up almost 10 per cent to 605 calls. The biggest was the 311-metre Voyager of the Seas, with an even longer cruise ship, Celebrity Solstice, due to visit this summer.

In time, Napier Port said it and many other New Zealand ports would need to be able to handle large container ships with up to 6000 TEUs.

In the past year, Napier Port handled just six visits of ships close to 5000 TEUs. Most ships were between 3000 and 5000 TEUs.

Napier can handle container ships just as big as those going through Auckland and Tauranga.

SEPTEMBER YEAR

Total tonnage: 3.987 million tonnes, +7.4%

Net profit after tax: $11.830 million, +6.7%

Revenue: $62.097 million, +3.0% 

- BusinessDay

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