Record profit for Tauranga port

JASON KRUPP
Last updated 07:27 30/08/2012
port stand
FAIRFAX NZ
Port of Tauranga did well out of a protracted strike at Ports of Auckland in the first half of the year.

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Port of Tauranga expects trade volumes to continue showing solid growth in the year ahead, and hopes to put to rest speculation that its record earnings were purely a result of the Ports of Auckland strike.

New Zealand's biggest export hub, the port reported a profit for the 12 months till June of $73.5 million, up from $58.4m the previous year.

The company was the main beneficiary of a long strike at Ports of Auckland in the first half of the year, which forced exporters to re- route cargo to other facilities.

Port of Tauranga container volumes rose 35 per cent in the year to 796,024 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Chief executive Mark Cairns acknowledged the short-term effect the strike had on earnings, but said yesterday's record result was mainly due to export momentum and added capacity.

'A lot of people saw this result on the back of Ports of Auckland's industrial relations issues, but if you go back to the half-year result we were already well on the way, with earnings up 22 per cent.'

During the year the company signed seven new shipping service agreements with several shipping lines, including Maersk, the world's second-biggest operator.

Cairns said the added services were transforming the company from a regional port into a major transport hub and the last stop for major cargo ships before they headed overseas.

The volume of containers transferred from one ship to another at Tauranga rose 88 per cent to 2.5 million tonnes in the year.

Rising dairy and log exports also boosted volumes, up 126 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Total trade volumes rose 20 per cent to 18.5 million tonnes.

The port hopes to build on this by adding capacity to its operations through a $130m capital injection over the next three years.

A vital part of port strategy is to dredge its harbour for ships with a 14-metre draught - a move that would give it the edge over Auckland if it gets resource consent.

Forsyth Barr research analyst Jeremy Simpson said even if the project got the go-ahead, Port of Tauranga would need to carefully assess how it implemented the project in the challenging economic climate. 'They need to be happy that there is going to be demand [for the deeper draught] from the shipping companies."

A decision is expected in the next month. However, Simpson said that even without a deeper harbour, he expected strong earnings growth in the coming year. Fairfax NZ

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- Taranaki Daily News

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