Revenues at Ports of Auckland have been boosted by the Auckland building boom and an “overwhelming” number of imported cars.
Building materials volumes are up, cement volumes through the port have risen 50 per cent in the last two years, and car volumes have jumped 20 per cent in the last year.
“As a consequence we are experiencing capacity constraints on our general wharves, with some ships having to wait at anchor or at berth to unload,” chief executive Tony Gibson said.
To cope with the flood of cars at the wharves, the port is considering building a huge carpark, the first stage of which could hold 1500 vehicles.
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Gibson said it would have to be “iconic” to satisfy those who see the waterfront as an important visual centrepiece of Auckland’s downtown.
The port had been directed by Auckland’s mayor to look into removing or reducing cars from the waterfront, but a report that would be shared later in the year showed that the emissions of driving the cars down from Northland’s port outweighed the benefits.
“We looked at importing cars via another port, but an independent report from Enviro-Mark showed that Ports of Auckland is the most environmentally sustainable for car imports,” he said.
Releasing its annual results on Thursday, the port reported a lower profit of $60.3 million for the year to June 30, down from $84m the previous year.
However, the previous year included a $17.6m gain from the reversal of an impairment.
Gibson said the port had also made several investments, particularly into sustainability and cyber security. About $1.5m had been spent on protecting its container terminal where partial automation is taking place, including the hiring of an ex-Homeland Security consultant.
Automating the terminal’s straddles will boost productivity but put about 60 of its 420 terminal workers out of work, and a retraining programme for those workers was being put in place.
When complete in 2019, the automation will raise its the terminal’s capacity from 900,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) to around 1.6 –1.7 million TEUs a year.
“But we will not be laying people off soon after we press the button on automation,” Gibson said.
Higher cargo and container volumes saw revenues rise more than $11m to $222.4m. Container volumes rose 5 per cent to 952,331 TEU, almost 300,000 cars and light commercial vehicles were delivered, and breakbulk and bulk volumes were up 11.4 per cent to 6.46 million tonnes.
Work was also underway at its 30-hectare Waikato freight hub, as the port develops a North Island supply chain. Gibson said its plans provided an alternative rather than duplicated Port of Tauranga’s own growing freight network.
Talks were also underway in the South Island with Port Lyttelton .”What a lot of people don’t realise is if you talk about manufacturing and coastal shipping, there’s a significant link between Auckland and Lyttelton,” Gibson said.
During the year, the port also bought back a half stake in Nexus Logistics, giving it 100 per cent ownership.
Gibson said the port was now recasting its strategy to make itself the most sustainable port in the country. Goals included being transparent with the community and having zero emissions.
Regarding the controversy about whether the port should be shifted, Gibson said: “We don’t have an issue about moving but what we are going to do is we’re coming out in October with a wider port development plan, and what people will see is we’re being very transparent about what we need to do.
“What we’ve said as a team is whatever we do on the port, it’s got to be iconic because when and if we do move, you’ve left a legacy for Auckland.”
The port’s shareholder, Auckland Council, will receive a slight lower dividend of $51.3m, compared to $54.3m the year before.