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Port of Tauranga handling more cargo

All of the Port of Tauranga's front-line staff have received at least one vaccine dose as of September 30 and would be fully vaccinated by mid-November. Photo: SunLive.

Port of Tauranga has had a busy first quarter, with a 6.9 per cent increase in trade, as it processed cargo that would normally have shipped earlier in the year.

Chief executive Leonard Sampson gave shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Friday an insight into the disruption for the country’s largest port due to Covid-19.

The pandemic resulted in extensive shipping delays, service cancellations, scarcity of supply and volume volatility leading to congestion at its container terminal and its MetroPort facility in Auckland. Tight labour supply, unreliable shipping schedules and fixed rail capacity constrained its ability to deal with large volume surges, and the Delta outbreak in Auckland had impacted wait times at MetroPort, he says.

“The 2021 financial year was a challenging one thanks to our co-stars Covid-19 and congestion,” says Leonard. “The near future remains uncertain due to the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the effects of the extended lockdown in Auckland and labour shortages.

“We expect ongoing challenges from the lack of schedule reliability, constrained shipping capacity, and a worsening of labour shortages. Covid-19 precautions will continue to impact efficiency and costs.”

In the first three months of the new financial year that began in July, the port’s total trade had increased 6.9 per cent to 6.8 million tonnes.

Sampson said that demonstrated the impact of congestion over the last 12 months, with some cargo being shipped in the first quarter that would usually have been shipped earlier.

“While we are still experiencing major disruption to the international supply chain, with the majority of container ships arriving off-window, we have been able to process more vessels and larger volumes of cargo compared with the same quarter last year,” he said.

Ship visits increased 7.5 per cent to 360 in the quarter compared with the same period last year.

Container volumes increased 8.1 per cent to 310,997. Log export volumes increased 2.4 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes. Direct dairy exports increased 6.7 per cent in volume and kiwifruit exports were also strong, up 7.1 per cent.

Container terminal productivity has improved significantly over the quarter, although there were still delays in transferring some import cargo to Auckland, he said.

Based on the first quarter’s performance, and notwithstanding any significant market changes, the port expects full-year profit of between $103 million and $110m. That’s up from $102.4m last year.

Shares in the port closed up 3 per cent to $6.90 on the NZX.

Leonard notes that all of the company’s front-line staff have received at least one vaccine dose as of September 30 and would be fully vaccinated by mid-November.

“Port of Tauranga has always strongly encouraged vaccination,” he said. “We have provided extensive health information, hosted question and answer sessions with local health experts, and facilitated vaccinations on site.”

Tina Morrison/Stuff

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