Auckland ship congestion impacting Tauranga

Ongoing delays and congestion at Ports of Auckland have resulted in ships arriving into Tauranga having to wait outside the Tauranga Harbour entrance. Image: Flight/Ship Tracker

More than ten ships are waiting to enter Tauranga Harbour to unload and pick up cargo.


The Port of Tauranga, NZ’s largest port and international freight gateway, is experiencing  congestion as ships wait anchored outside Tauranga Harbour's entrance today.


“Some of the ships at anchor at the moment have arrived late to Tauranga due to ongoing delays in Auckland,” says Port of Tauranga Communications Manager Rochelle Lockley.


“We have been operating at close to capacity since September last year due to problems and severe congestion at Ports of Auckland. We are managing large volumes of import and export cargo diverted from Auckland.”


Rochelle says that at the moment the Port of Tauranga container terminal is operating at more than 100 per cent of capacity, with more than 5,300 imported TEUs -  twenty foot equivalent containers - waiting for rail transfer to Auckland.


“We are working closely with KiwiRail to try to secure additional trains and we’re hopeful they will be able to increase capacity to clear the backlog.”


On February 26, the Port of Tauranga reported increased profitability for the first six months of the 2021 financial year, despite volatile cargo volumes and congestion issues being experienced at Ports of Auckland.


It is also peak export season for dairy products and kiwifruit – containerised and bulk, and there is high international demand for export logs.


“So at the moment we have container, bulk kiwifruit and log vessels waiting to berth,” says Rochelle.


“We are processing them as they arrive but we will not compromise safety in order to rush them through.”


Port of Tauranga Limited Chair, David Pilkington, says the mid-year financial results were very pleasing considering the volatility in cargo volumes over the period and reflected the stability offered by the diverse companies in the group.


“We have managed to maintain income throughout a challenging six months,” says David. “Port of Tauranga handled near record volumes of containers in the months of October and December.


However, lower-than-previous demand from June to August, and vessel delays in November, dragged down the year-to-date container volumes.”


“It’s a similar story when we look at overall cargo tonnes. Volumes decreased 1.3 per cent for the six month period, yet volumes in December 2020 were 15.1 per cent higher than the same month in 2019.”


David says severe vessel delays out of Auckland since September had significant flow-on impacts on Port of Tauranga.


“We have done our best to accommodate diverted import and export cargoes from Auckland. However, we have had to limit our assistance as we have been constrained by the lack of availability of additional rolling stock and train drivers for the rail link between Tauranga and Auckland,” says David.


In February Port of Tauranga’s Chief Executive, Mark Cairns, who is due to retire in June 2021, said the January 1 introduction of penalties for shippers rolling cargo or leaving their containers on the wharf for excessive time had provided some relief from yard congestion, and the peak export season was now in full swing.


“We need all parts of the supply chain to do their bit and we are very grateful for the cooperation of importers and exporters in improving terminal productivity. Unfortunately, the threat of congestion remains and is unlikely to dissipate until Ports of Auckland sorts out its operational problems,” says Mark.


“We accommodated a container vessel at our Mount Maunganui bulk cargo wharves in December to try and alleviate the pre-Christmas stress for retailers. New Zealand’s ability to absorb the worldwide disruption caused by Covid-19 has been severely constrained.”


Port of Tauranga has applied for the Covid-19 recovery fast-track resource consenting process for its proposed berth extension at the Tauranga Container Terminal. The fourth berth will be created by converting 220 metres of cargo storage land to the south of the existing wharves.


The $68.5 million project will create an estimated 368 jobs through the construction phase and more than 81 permanent jobs after completion. No Government funding is sought for the project and it is frustrating that the consent process takes so long.


Mark says the project could help ease congestion in the Upper North Island supply chain, especially with the prospect of the Ruakura Super-hub and inland port at Hamilton coming on stream. The inland port, being developed in partnership by Port of Tauranga and Tainui Group Holdings, is due to open in 2022.

“Our team members and our service providers are doing an amazing job in processing these huge volumes of cargo in very challenging circumstances and we thank our customers for their patience,” says Rochelle.


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