Northport receives many questions from different media on a regular basis, covering a wide range of issues.
In an effort to ensure accuracy and consistency of reporting we publish here the questions we receive most frequently, along with the answers.
For media enquiries please contact:
Due North Public Relations
P: 021 456 089
Upper North Island Supply-Chain Strategy Working Group report
- Which of the political perspectives on this report does Northport favour?
- Is Northport still lobbying for a share of Auckland’s cargo? If so, how?
- Do you disagree with the notion that the Port of Auckland should be shut down and its operations moved elsewhere in their entirety?
- You call for a resilient, geographically astute, three-port supply-chain strategy for the Upper North Island. What does ‘geographically astute’ mean?
- How realistic is it to expect imports to be directed to the Upper North Island port closest to their intended destination? Is that even possible?
- What trends in international shipping are addressed by a three-port supply-chain strategy for the Upper North Island?
- The report issued by Wayne Brown and his group was heavily criticised. What did you think of it?
- What’s your view of the Sapere Report?
- What now needs to be done before an informed decision can be made about a future UNI ports strategy?
- Some industry figures are calling for a study that looks at freight demand over the next 30 years to ensure we have the right capacity, and in the right places. This would include freight modelling - where is export/import demand going to grow? Do you agree?
- Should ports be working more collaboratively and, if so, what needs to happen to make this possible?
- To what extent did the UNISCSWG consult with Northport before compiling their report - how many meetings did you have?
- Did the group seek your views on the practicality of moving the Ports of Auckland to Northport in its entirety, before putting forward that proposal in his report?
- After that the UNISCSWG suggested government intervention if the UNI ports weren’t prepared to make a plan to migrate Auckland’s traffic to Northport, you said you’d get together with the Chairs of the other ports to consider next steps. How did that go?
- Why has Northport kept such a low profile in the national conversation about moving Ports of Auckland?
We’re apolitical and will stay that way.
Northport has not, and does not, lobby for a share of Auckland’s cargo. Freight will only relocate if the business case stacks up and the customer sees value in the relocation.
Northport supports the wider view of the three Upper North Island ports working collaboratively to better utilise their current and potential footprints to support the Upper North Island’s current and future freight demand. Innovative technology provides for better optimisation of port cargo storage/transit facilities and automation can increase productivity resulting in smoother ship turnaround.
Identification of where the Upper North Island population will grow/relocate and in turn identifying the freight location and/or destination within the area enabling sound decision making with regard to infrastructure requirements; i.e. geographically astute rather than parochial decision making.
High value freight will take advantage of earliest/fastest routes as the product can afford to travel/be multi handled, where the lower value freight will focus on total end-to-end cost. While more focus can be placed on receiving freight at the closest port in reality it will depend on shipping services and frequency.
Reducing the number of international port calls to reduce overall supply chain costs. However, for this to work effectively there is a need for multi-modal efficient supply chains: road, rail, and coastal shipping.
The report focused heavily on a relocation of Ports of Auckland to Northport. Our view is that the current and future Northport footprint cannot accommodate both Northland and Auckland’s current freight, let alone future freight growth. There was brief discussion over a complete rebuild of Northport’s infrastructure. This would require removing most of the current infrastructure and dredging into the hinterland and is, in our view, unrealistic. A far more practical solution would involve a geographically-astute, resilient three-port Upper North Island supply-chain strategy - underpinned by modern, effective road, rail and coastal shipping infrastructure.
The Sapere Report focussed on a relocation of the Auckland port to either Manakau Harbour or the Firth of Thames, and even some suggestion of a man-made island port in the Hauraki Gulf. Aside from the operational issues of any one of these, the consenting hurdles and cost to the country of the total relocation cost would be formidable! A far more practical solution, in our view, would involve a geographically-astute, resilient three-port Upper North Island supply-chain strategy - underpinned by modern, effective road, rail and coastal shipping infrastructure.
There are two options, allow commercial decision making to drive the outcomes, or undertake a country wide freight demand study with a focus on the UNI – this will require future population and industry projections and their associated freight growth demand.
Yes – as per above.
New Zealand ports need to work more collaboratively. However ports have to be wary of the difference between ‘working collaboratively’ and ‘collusion’; in our view the recent changes in leadership at ports around the country have created new opportunities to better discuss opportunities within the supply chain.
The inaugural meeting for the Group was held at Northport where a presentation and tour of the site were given. We had a second opportunity to meet with the Group in Auckland as the study progressed (approx. 2 hours).
Northport outlined its views on this at both meetings.
COVID happened very shortly after that and, since then, the three ports have had a very different set of priorities. We’d also make the point that the commentary calling for government intervention was based on the perception that there is no collaboration between us. In fact, very good working relationships exist - both Tauranga and Auckland have interests in Northport - that we feel will form the basis of discussions that we very much hope will start taking place about a three-port strategy for a robust, resilient Upper North Island transport and logistics strategy.
This has predominantly been a political arena; Northport has remained apolitical throughout and provided through its Vision for Growth factual information about its capability.
Expansion/Vision for Growth
- How many extra jobs, without the shipyard and floating dry-dock?
- To what extent does the expansion rely on container trade? Is it worth doing for break-bulk only?
- What will be the decision-point for the Board - in terms of both timing and commercial activity?
- Is the project time sensitive?
- What will be the impact of 24hr operations on neighbouring residential areas?
The proposed port expansion/container terminal will initially require 50-100 additional jobs at Northport. As the business case allows, the terminal will become semi-automated and then fully automated. Total job numbers will be 30-50 at that time.
The expansion is based on a container trade supporting the Northland and north Auckland freight growth/demand. The current consented port footprint is capable of supporting all of Northland’s current and future freight demand (bulk/break-bulk and container).
As in all Northport expansion plans a solid business case will be required. This can be dependent on both the commercial demand as well as picking the right time to make the investment. As we can demonstrate, the consenting phase can take upwards of five years to complete and is why we started this consent process in 2015.
As per above, the project cannot go ahead without a consent. The time needed to prepare and (hopefully) obtain a consent means the timing of the application is of paramount importance so as to facilitate our ability to react quickly to growth demand.
The port already operates 24/7. There are existing noise management procedures that are reviewed regularly. The proposed shipyard is likely to have conditions imposed around night-time operations such as sand-blasting and painting.
- Do you think the spur will ever happen?
- Are the upgrades to the north Auckland line to date, sufficient?
- Is KiwiRail coming to the party, commercially, with competitive rates that will make rail a viable option for cargo heading south?
- Is an Auckland/Northport rail freight service commercially viable right now? If not, what would it take to make it so?
- At what stage, and at what level of detail, are your planning discussions with KiwiRail?
- Where will the rail line go; where will the terminal be situated?
- What do you think about Wayne Brown’s point that rail should run straight to the side of ships?
- What discussions are you having with importers and exporters about regular container services that would build on the three extra-ordinary calls you’ve had to date?
The rail spur will be required when the port expansion is completed. KiwiRail are in the process of purchasing the last 55 percent of the land within the designation while confirming the build design. Once this has been completed the actual build is estimated at five years from inception to completion.
There is still more work to be completed on the NA Line upgrade: ballast, sleepers and rail, so as to enable 18-tonne axle loadings along the entire route; until this is completed the capacity is limited.
Northport is not privy to the commercial rates provided by KiwiRail.
Increased freight volume and either a reduced road-bridge cost or a small container siding at Oakleigh (being discussed with KiwiRail).
Northport meets regularly with KiwiRail, as this project ramps up there are plans for in depth discussions around rail requirements at Marsden Point.
These are still to be determined and will be part of the planning meetings between Marsden Maritime Holdings/Northport/KiwiRail.
This type of rail configuration is no longer adopted by modern port design; the turnaround times/productivity of ship loading/discharge makes direct to hook delivery impractical, operations need all of the cargo at the port and stacked for multi-port/destination loading before ship arrival.
For discharge the cargo needs to be removed from under hook as soon as landed and taken to storage areas for sorting/stacking for specific destination(s).
Northport is in regular contact with ANL/CMA-CMG regarding future calls. There are regular meetings with other international lines to discuss future opportunities and potential freight demand.
- Was ditching the road for the rail the right decision?
- Would you support road development over rail?
Northland requires a multi-modal supply chain, ditching any one for the other makes no real sense if the government really wants Northland as a region to grow.
The rail spur and North Auckland Line upgrade are important to the port’s expansion plans. However, in the interim, linking Northland and Auckland more effectively by road would promote growth within the region; freight, tourism, general business, decentralisation, etc.
Port congestion/ disrupted supply-chains NZ-wide
- Is port congestion easing?
- How do you rate your performance in handling the unexpected large container ship calls of late?
- Your first call in December appeared to be beset with logistical issues. Were these resolved, and how?
- It’s been suggested that the current situation shows how NZ is at the mercy of international shipping lines, and that perhaps the country should create a state-owned shipping line. This could subsidise freight costs and ensure we’re connected to the rest of the world when the big players decide we’re not worth bothering about. What’s your view?
There is no let-up in the worldwide shipping sector – we should expect this to continue for some time (12-18-months minimum is suggested)
The Northport team responded to the challenges exceptionally well. Given only three days’ notice to prepare for the first vessel, a number of systems had to be put in place: container tracking for multiple customers, truck-booking, and container dispatch systems, as well as gearing up for the additional workload over normal cargo operations.
As areas for improvement were identified so the systems were tweaked/upgraded. Staff rose to the challenge and hours were carefully monitored and fatigue-managed. Our capability was declared openly to the sector and was well received overall.
The first vessel went exceptionally well, the only hurdle was the disregard by the freight sector of our published hours of work and our newly-created truck booking system. Trucks were heading north with no bookings just to see if they could pick-up a box. Systems and co-operation have since been improved.
While the idea of a state-owned shipping line may appeal to the government/unions, in reality it is unlikely to have any real impact on the congestion issues; our trade lanes are too wide for just one shipping line. Longer term, of course, an island nation having its own international and coastal shipping can only be advantageous when it comes to supply-chain contingency.
Shipyard and dry-dock
- What does Northport have that Picton doesn’t?
- What do you need/want from government to make this happen?
- Is the shipyard and dry-dock an essential component of your growth plans?
Northport has not been contracted to consider one port facility over the other, we were asked to consider whether Northport could accommodate a floating dry dock within its future port plans. In doing so we have identified that a floating drydock and associated shipyard facilities need access to significant land based infrastructure, the floating drydock needs access as well as substantial securing infrastructure – these units cannot operate anchored out in the stream; as can be seen from our Vision for Growth plans the proposed infrastructure has sufficient area to support the planned operations. Northland has access to suitable labour and required shipbuilding trades, as well as being able to accommodate any of the shipyard staff moving from Auckland to Northland.
At this time, we are only asking for government to openly support the consenting programme and shipyard concept as a nationally strategic, regionally significant project; we have at no time asked government to fund this project, other than through the shovel ready opportunities.
The shipyard/floating drydock is not part of Northport’s own growth plans. Northport is a port operator not a shipyard operator. However the management/shareholders recognised an opportunity for Northport to facilitate significant regional growth and regional and nationally strategic infrastructure.
- What’s your position on cars? You spoke about these 18 months or so ago; what progress?
- You have a job to do, to win over the sceptics in the motor trade. How do you plan to do that?
We continue to work closely with potential customers that see the opportunity to move out of Auckland and are available to mitigate the challenges facing the industry with the capabilities and space we have here. Northport has continued to discuss an alternative to the current car-import model at Ports of Auckland. We are not suggesting a like-for-like operation but for an ‘out of the box’ approach whereby cars are imported into Northport and delivered to an adjacent car storage/preparation facility, and then only delivered when sold and customer ready, to Auckland (or other areas), or collected by the customer directly.
Selling the concept relies on ongoing and effective communication with industry players, while working closely with potential customers that see the opportunity to move out of Auckland.
- Do you intend to build cruise-specific facilities to become a cruise terminal?
There is no reason for Northport to build a purpose-built cruise facility. The cruise industry is happy to berth alongside a commercial wharf facility, especially if that avoids an anchoring situation and disembarking/embarking by tender.
Cruise operators are exploring all options so as to re-establish the industry. As part of that new destinations will be of interest. With the Hundertwasser facility due to open in early December 2021 we are already seeing renewed interest from some of the cruise companies – nothing confirmed though.
Covid-19 - protocols and staff take-up
- Do you support the new COVID-related public health order for border workers?
- Do any of your unvaccinated staff work in positions where they need to board ships or interact with crew?
- Are current Ministry of Health protocols for crew transfers sufficiently robust?
- What are Northport’s protocols for crew transfers and interaction?
We are supportive of all measures by the government to improve the border security against COVID-19. The mandatory vaccination of certain maritime border workers is part of this campaign (announced by the Minister on Monday 12th July 2021). Where this could fall down is the option for workers to decline the vaccination and be repurposed elsewhere in the business, creating a loss of frontline workers – potentially compounding existing port congestion issues.
Northport staff are limited in their onboard work (woodchip and container vessels only); current procedures do not permit staff to enter the ship’s accommodation and any interaction on deck must be carried out with the correct PPE and social distancing.
Northport works closely with MOH, MIQ, MNZ, NDHB and Customs with regard to crew transfers. However the Northport requirements are more robust than MOH etc. The requirements of the facility owner, take precedence.
Every crew member joining the vessel must have a negative COVID test result before leaving MIQ. No crew transfer is undertaken at Northport until all NZ workers have completed their work on the vessel. Only once all NZ workers are clear of the vessel will Northport permit transferring crew to enter the port facility, at which point they must be transported straight to the vessel. Departing crew members can only leave once the relieving crew have joined, they must then be transported directly to MIQ or the airport.
- Are there any changes planned for the way logs are fumigated at Northport?
- Is MeBr on its way out?
- Is there an acceptable alternative to MeBr?
- How comfortable are you, personally, working so close to where MeBr is being used?
- How are you planning for an eventual phase-out of MeBr?
Currently there are two options for export logs to meet the phytosanitary requirements, fumigation by phosphene (slow release) for China underdeck cargoes and MeBr for all on-deck cargoes or debarking of on-deck cargoes; India cargoes (underdeck and on-deck) require full fumigation by MeBr prior to departure NZ.
MeBr fumigation on-wharf can use the current recapture technology, there are three machines at Northport and to-date we are achieving 47 percent of the rows/volume fumigated being recaptured.
EPA have extended the use of MeBr without recapture to 28 February 2022. In July 2021 EPA announced that reassessment of methyl bromide is closed as of 7th July 2021, and that the EPA will publicly notify the decision on the modified reassessment within 30 days of the closure of the hearing; the industry will now await the decision before making any further investment in to recapture technology.
At this time there is no recognised/approved fumigant alternative to MeBr.
The use of MeBr on site is managed to a very high standard. Northport has a set of minimum standards that need to be complied with. These are in addition to the regulations and are site specific; Northport audits the fumigator’s operations at least once monthly to ensure compliance, these audits are reported to Directors.
We are comfortable that our staff and port users are safe working on the site while fumigation is underway.
Northport has been working alongside industry partners since the ERMA/EPA decision made in 2010 to either phase out MeBr or improve recapture technology. We have also facilitated debarking operations off-wharf as well as on-wharf.
- What are your forecasts for log exports?
- How do you plan to compensate for any slow-down in log exports?
- Why is so much container traffic into and out of Northland still bypassing your port?
In 2014 Northport undertook a review of log availability in Northland, this review identified that log volumes in Northland are expected to remain around 4.2 million m³ per annum until 2026 and then shows a fall to an average harvest availability of c.2.4 million m³ per annum between 2027 and 2041.
Currently log processors use c.1.7 million m³ per annum, this is based on the structural portion of the resource. Based on 40% of the available resources being available to the processors (without any retooling factored in), export log volumes are expected to drop to as low as around1.4 million m³ per annum over the same period.
This study had a desktop review undertaken in 2018 to confirm accuracy of projections, the review indicated projections were on-track as per the initial review. In 2021/22 a full review will be undertaken of the log availability in Northland utilising new technology and most recent harvesting and planting information.
Northport reviewed its strategic planning in 2015 after the release of the Log Availability Forecast and a study of Northland freight options and made its first move into container handling (Golden Bay Cement’s ISO Pods). At the same time it introduced its Vision for Growth to the port’s wider community stakeholders.
Northport’s growth plans are focused on supporting Northland freight growth/demand while preparing to handle North Auckland freight - predominantly containerised freight but also potential for cars and other bulk and break-bulk freight.
Availability of regular international shipping services calling at Northport. Currently there is a SSNZ coastal service servicing the South Island and Port of Tauranga, as well as seasonal international calls by MSC for horticulture and meat products.