Port weighed by uncertainty

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 09:40 16/10/2012

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The economic downturn which saw a 20 per cent drop in bulk cargo contributed to a 12 per cent reduction in Port Marlborough profits, the company says.

Profits were $5.23 million for the last financial year.

Uncertainty over the Clifford Bay port proposal had also affected the company, which is owned by Marlborough District Council umbrella company MDC Holdings.

The port reported an 11.7 per cent drop in pre-tax profit, from $5.92m in 2011 to $5.23m for the year ended June 30, 2012.

Port Marlborough chairman Ed Johnson said the result was due to a slow trading environment, where log exports fell behind budget, and fewer ferry passengers than had been expected for the Rugby World Cup.

The company's annual report, released on Friday, showed log exports fell 27 per cent to 454,128 JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard cubic metres) which saw total bulk cargo slip about 20 per cent against a target of 566,750 JAS.

In his report, Mr Johnson said the Transport Ministry's ongoing investigation into shifting the ferry terminals from Picton created uncertainty.

He believed the company had done well, though the risk of the ferry terminals being relocated to Clifford Bay "impeded" the company's ability to confidently plan and secure commitment for development projects.

"This [lengthy] investigation weighs heavily on the company's investment activities and those of our key customers. The sooner we can move forward with confidence, the better for all."

Targeted earnings before interest, tax and depreciation were $8.28m and it achieved $8.65m.

Port Marlborough is the second largest marina operator in New Zealand with Havelock, Waikawa and Picton Marinas holding a total of more than 1175 berths and accommodation for a further 500 in land-based storage.

Its boatshed occupancy exceeded the goal of 93 per cent with 95 per cent, though its marina berth occupancy of 87 per cent fell below the targeted 93 per cent.

Chief executive Ian McNabb's report said the company would focus on raising its returns on port assets.

Upgrade work at its marinas was progressing well.

"Given the issues that we have had to contend with, the company has had a successful year."

Upgrades to the Picton and Waikawa marinas were a good sign of development progress and the company's aim to meet customer needs, his report said.

The company had begun planning the third stage of upgrades at Picton Marina, which will involve installing additional berths, reshaping the basin and a new launching ramp.

It introduced another boat haul-out service at Waikawa Marina on October 1, replacing the service of Ian Franklin Boat Builders.

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The directors report showed the board is proposing paying a final dividend of $800,000 to MDC Holdings, taking the total distribution for the year to $1.68 million. Port Marlborough has paid a total of $55.79m to the council-owned company since its establishment in 1988.

The directors' report also showed six employees earned between $130,000 and $339,000. One of them earned a salary in the top bracket of $330,000-$339,000.


PORT ACTIVITY

Port Marlborough – to June 30

Vessel visits: 3601

Boats accommodated at marinas: 1399

Bulk cargo tonnes: 494, 032

Ferry and cruise ship passengers through port: 1,023,017

Rail commercial freight vehicle lane metres: 2,579,125

- The Marlborough Express

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