Auckland mulls next move

Ports of Auckland is committing to automated straddles Ports of Auckland is committing to automated straddles
Industry Database

New Zealand's second largest port is keeping its location options open, writes Dave MacIntyre

In New Zealand, the main talking point in port related discussions is where Ports of Auckland will relocate to in the future.

Local political opposition to any further reclamations means that the port will never be able to expand its footprint. The new New Zealand Government – involving two coalition agreements between the Labour Party and New Zealand First and between Labour and the Greens – has committed to commissioning a feasibility study on the options for moving the port.

This includes looking at Northport – strongly favoured by NZ First – even though last year’s Port Future Study did not even have Northport in its final short list. Instead, the favoured sites were the Firth of Thames and Manukau.

Given that a move is on the cards to a new port perhaps 30 years into the future, Ports of Auckland has reacted with a Draft 30-Year Master Plan to service the freight needs of its region in the time between now and the point where the new port is ready.

It includes the automation of the container terminal and completion of a deep-water terminal berth.

In mid-2019, the container terminal will become the first in New Zealand to use automated straddle carriers to load and unload trucks and to operate the container yard.

Manual operation will be maintained between the yard and ship-to-shore cranes because the port believes it can achieve higher productivity with manual control there.

The new automated straddle carriers will be 15.8 metres tall and able to stack containers up to four high. Currently, the terminal uses 13-metre-tall manual straddle carriers, which stack containers up to three high. The switch will immediately increase stacking capacity by a third.

The 27 automated straddles will be in full operation by late 2019 but two test straddles are being trialled in a special test grid being created in the terminal, where guidance systems and sensors can be set up to fine tune the loading and unloading of trucks.

Automation and extension of the truck grid will require the installation of positioning and control systems, a new perimeter fence and gates to separate people from the automated equipment, and the erection of a new engineering workshop to house the taller equipment.

Meanwhile, the Fergusson Container Terminal Extension project that has been underway since the early 2000s is nearing completion, which will increase the yard area by three hectares. It also includes a 50-metre extension northward of the main Fergusson Terminal wharf which was completed in 2015 and the creation of a new Fergusson North Wharf:

Three new quay cranes have been ordered from ZPMC for the Fergusson North wharf, to be delivered in late 2018. These will be able to carry up to four containers at once, so will be able to load and unload ships faster.

The upshot is that the port is predicting it can increase capacity from just under 1m teu a year currently to around 1.6-1.7m teu, enough to cater for the needs of an Auckland population of over 2.7m.

With further investment it estimates that on the existing land it could handle up to 3m teu, catering for a future Auckland population of 5m.

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