Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Northport to invest in more container infrastructure as freight volumes rise

In a further sign of Northport’s growing relevance in the upper North Island supply chain, the Northland gateway is to invest $8 million in infrastructure to support container traffic.

The company, a joint venture between NZX-listed Port of Tauranga and Marsden Maritime Holdings, is forecasting a 15 per cent lift in container traffic volume for this financial year to the end of June.

Chief executive Jon Moore said the port would buy container-handling equipment and a simulator module to train staff in the operation. It would also expand the container storage area and upgrade lighting to enhance safety in 24-hour operations.

The port had ordered two new reach-stacker container handlers, a new dock-truck and trailer – which would significantly assist its container handling ability.

It would start paving an additional four hectares of its southwest development in October, and later install six 35m towers with LED lights in a first for the port.

The investment demonstrated the port’s commitment to growing container operations to service the freight needs of Northland and north Auckland, said Moore.

However, the investment was not linked to the port’s possible expansion, for which resource consent application planning is under way.

“This is equipment we need to manage the here and now. We invest in infrastructure we know we have a need for. It’s the approach we took with our two mobile harbour cranes and it’s the same story with this latest tranche of investment.”

A minor container port, Northport has risen to the challenge of handling unplanned and large-scale container vessel visits in recent months, as global shipping congestion and productivity issues at the Ports of Auckland cause freight delays and supply chain logjams.

Last week’s allocation of Government funding to build a rail spur to the port from the main rail line south of Whangārei is tipped to unlock Northport’s potential as a more prominent player in the North Island supply chain, supporting the Port of Tauranga and Auckland’s port.

The 19km rail link is scheduled to be delivered by KiwiRail within five years.

That Northport currently has no rail access makes it unusual in the country’s 13-port landscape.

Meanwhile, the company said it was continuing with the work and studies it needs to complete before applying for resource consents for its growth plans.

Situated at Marsden Point at the mouth of Whangārei Harbour, Northport is a natural deepwater port with a 570m berth.

Its main business is export logs, woodchip and processed timber but recent investment in container handling equipment has resulted in a lift in coast and international container trade.

Other exports from the port include kiwifruit, dairy products and manufactured goods.

Imports include fertiliser, gypsum, coal and palm kernel.

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