Cargo snarl sparks call for inland port

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 11:38 30/12/2013

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The trucking industry has called for a second, inland port for Christchurch to help smooth container and cargo flows through to Lyttelton port's main harbourside container terminal.

Before Christmas, truckies reached boiling point over ongoing delays picking up cargo. The port has apologised for the delays, which it blames on increased export volumes and cramped conditions in its container storage area.

One suggestion has been for the port to start a secondary container handling centre, perhaps in the Sockburn-Hornby area, near rail and road links. It already has a container handling area in Chapmans Rd, Woolston.

David Boyce, chief executive at NZ Trucking Association, has also suggested that if Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) does not improve its performance it could face increased competition for cargo from within the city of Christchurch.

Port of Tauranga, which has invested $21.6 million in a 50 per cent share in PrimePort Timaru, had already taken away market share from Ports of Auckland and could potentially enter the Christchurch market, Boyce has warned.

"There would be nothing to stop Port of Tauranga setting up a transport hub in the south of Christchurch."

LPC chief executive Peter Davie said such potential competition was "always a threat", but the port remained working on its service levels. The port was also focused on its own performance, rather than what might happen with Port of Tauranga or another operator.

Boyce said he had not heard any strong indication that that Port of Tauranga was formulating plans to enter the Christchurch market, but if PoT did "they would want to keep their cards pretty close to their chest on that one".

"I would imagine that if either LPC or Tauranga wanted to set up south of Christchurch, a number of transport operators would certainly be keen to be involved in it."

Some of the larger trucking companies could be interested in putting equity into such a venture.

"The industry would certainly like to see something like that because it would take the congestion away from Lyttelton. They (LPC) are certainly investigating it from what I can gather."

LPC's Davie said the possibility a second hub near Hornby was something LPC would consider down the track, "if it makes sense for the business".

But LPC also had room to expand on the Chapman's Rd site, where it had acquired extra land about four years ago now being used to hold containers not needed immediately at portside. "It's been a 10 hectare site, so we actually bought another extra seven hectares. We're progressively moving on to that site."

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Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said his immediate focus with the PrimePort shareholding was restoring cargo to the Timaru port. Primeport had previously handled 80,000 containers on an annual basis, but that had fallen to around 20,000 at this point. "Our focus is on small steps to quietly try and work this cargo that's close to our own catchment . . .," Cairns said.

"We'll be putting together a marketing plan and talking to all of the customers about that."

He acknowledged Christchurch could be a source for cargo, noting that Port of Tauranga had a successful operation in Auckland but said it was "early days" in terms of the agreement with Timaru. While PoT has a 50 per cent stake in PrimePort, it also had a long term concession to "run the container terminal 100 per cent".

- Fairfax Media

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