NEW NZ DRY DOCK A BASIS FOR NEW INDUSTRY – KIWIRAIL

A dry dock to handle the country’s biggest vessels is affordable and can form the basis of a new marine servicing industry, KiwiRail chair Greg Miller says.

Establishing a new facility will reduce the increasing cost and risk shippers face getting regular surveys completed at ports in Australia or Singapore, he said.

The new ferries the firm plans to introduce from 2023 – 230 metres long and 30 metres wide – “actually sets the stage” for the project, he said. KiwiRail is keen to be a catalyst and initial discussions with other shippers have been positive.

The key, he said, is to integrate the new dock with other existing facilities. The resulting hub could then provide a full range of marine services.

“It’s nowhere near as big and scary as we think – if we get it right,” Miller told BusinessDesk.

“I’ve got a really good idea of the costs and they don’t scare us.” He wouldn’t provide an estimate.

Dry docks operate at Lyttelton and at Devonport in Auckland. But both are old and neither are large enough to cater for the increasing size of the country’s ferries, coastal carriers and some ocean-going fishing vessels.

Port Marlborough has spent several years campaigning to establish a floating dry dock at Shakespeare Bay and previously estimated the cost at up to $80 million.

Last year, the New Zealand Shipping Federation urged action on the project, saying it was open to any location that is affordable, can provide 24-hour, seven-day operation, has access to other wharves and is deep enough for use by international vessels.

It told the government’s working party on a supply chain strategy for the upper North Island that the only feasible sites are Whangarei and Shakespeare Bay.

Miller wouldn’t be drawn on the location of the facility, development of which may still be five to 10 years out.

Yesterday, he told Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee that the limited dry dock capacity is causing a loss of productivity.

Increasing coastal shipping around Australia is making it harder for New Zealand vessels to access facilities there. Getting to and from Singapore adds to time and cost and also adds considerable risk to scheduling.

Miller said New Zealand fishing companies are also designing vessels to fit the local facilities, reducing their ocean-going capacity and their efficiency.

The Devonport dock can handle vessels up to 170 metres in length. Miller said there are probably 14 local vessels that could use a larger facility now and he could see that figure getting to 20 “pretty easily”.

Beyond that there is additional scope to gain business from international shipping lines that currently can’t get vessels serviced here.

“We could build an industry,” he said. “We are going to really pursue a location and an opportunity for that.”

(BusinessDesk)

Ports of Auckland goes driverless to boost container numbers

In the high-tech equivalent of “look Mum, no hands,” Ports of Auckland’s new 70-tonne straddle carriers will hurtle around at up to 22km/h, without anyone at the controls.

This Luddite’s nightmare means no human contact with the container from the time the truck driver unscrews his twist locks to just before it is hoisted by crane and deposited on a ship. For imports, it will be the same process, only in reverse.

As the port sees it, public opinion is against expansion through further reclamation, so the only way to improve productivity is through technology.

The system is now being tested, with empty containers stacked high to act as a barrier in case something goes wrong.

And something going wrong doesn’t really bear thinking about: fully laden, the port’s new carriers weigh in at 100 tonnes – not easy to stop in a hurry.

When the project is complete, the port’s 27 new blue carriers will be involved in an elaborate dance to get containers on and off ships, with the process controlled by software at head office.

“It feels funny when you see this giant machine coming straight towards you,” says the port’s automation project manager, Ross Clarke.

The Auckland Council-owned port is under pressure from New Zealand First to relocate to Whangārei, and the Government is conducting a comprehensive upper North Island logistics and freight review to ensure New Zealand’s supply chain is fit for purpose in the longer term.

The review will guide the development and delivery of a freight and logistics strategy for the upper North Island. This includes a feasibility study to explore moving the location of Ports of Auckland, with consideration to be given to Northport.

Clarke says the new straddle carrier technology, alongside the port’s three new cranes that arrived last year from China, is seen as a game changer.Can we resuscitate our struggling sharemarket?

Automation will increase its terminal capacity from just over 900,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) a year to 1.6-1.7 million, the port says.

Auckland will be the first New Zealand port to partially automate its container terminal.

At the same time, the port says the straddle carriers will save as much as 10 per cent on fuel use. There should also be less impact on neighbouring communities as they will require less light and will not make as much noise as conventional, manned carriers.

The new Konecrane carriers will deliver more capacity because they can stack four containers compared to just three for the existing carriers. This, combined with changes to the terminal layout and past reclamation work, is expected to increase capacity by 80 per cent.

They come with a positioning system called Locator – a type of ground-based GPS that boasts an accuracy of plus or minus 3cm.

Clarke says that given its constrained area, something had to be done to grow the port.

Auckland's new automated straddle carriers can stack containers four high. Photo / Leon Menzies
Auckland’s new automated straddle carriers can stack containers four high. Photo / Leon Menzies

“If we didn’t do something to increase that capacity then the business’s throughput, and therefore revenue and profit, would be capped.

“We can’t expand the footprint of the terminal – the public have been clear about that,” he says.

“Dwell times” – the time it takes for exports inside terminal gates to be loaded onto a ship and imports onto a truck or train – are already low by world standards.

“So the only other avenue to increase the storage capacity is to stack more densely and we are going up with automated machines.”

Automation means stevedoring roles will go, but Clarke says the number of jobs lost is likely to be less than the original estimate of 50.

“The chances are that with the new cranes, and the increased throughput, the reduction in jobs might not be that much at all,” he says.

“Implementing automation helps fund the investment in the new technology. Reducing jobs was never the ambition – it’s just an outcome.”

Clarke says the port has trouble recruiting enough staff to deal with current demand, and there are vacancies it can’t fill.

“With the business growing, and the number of unfilled jobs that we have at the moment, the actual level of redundancies might be quite small.”

The high-tech carriers will initially work with the port’s new, $60 million, 82.3m high cranes which weigh in at 2100 tonnes apiece, against 1200 and 1300 tonnes for the older cranes.

The port says that with these new cranes, and the new deepwater berth they will sit alongside, the port will be able to handle the biggest ships coming to these shores.

They can lift four containers at once, weighing up to 130 tonnes combined, a New Zealand first. The current cranes can lift two containers, weighing up to 65 tonnes.

The new cranes can service ships carrying more than 11,000 TEU, which the port expects will offer some “future-proofing” against increases in the size of ships.

Ports of Auckland is only the second port in the world to automate as a “brownfields” development – most automated ports are built from scratch.

Clarke says maintaining the port’s day-to-day operations while the project is underway has been a big challenge.

Initially the northern third of the terminal – where the new cranes are – will be automated while the southern part will continue with manned straddle carriers.

Once it is satisfied that the technology is working to plan, the port company will complete the rollout for the rest of the terminal.

The first stage goes live in February next year, followed by the second stage in April.

Clarke says that by the middle of 2020, the port should have a fully operational automated container terminal.

NZ Herald

MPS TOLD $200M NORTHPORT RAIL LINK ‘CRITICAL

14/2/19

Economic growth in Northland is akin to that in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty during the 1970s and 1980s and will need investment in rail to support the region’s growing export industries, MPs heard today.

KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle said Northport is the only port in the country without a direct rail link. He says it is “critical” the government builds a 20-kilometre spur extension to link the Auckland-to-Whangarei line to the port at Marsden Point.

This potential new line is only an element of a wider project. KiwiRail is feeding into a business case the Ministry of Transport is aiming to complete by May on options for upgrading the rail link from Auckland northwards, Moyle told Parliament’s transport and infrastructure committee.

KiwiRail chair Greg Miller told MPs the development of dairying, forestry, pulp and paper and horticulture in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty 40 years ago was matched by government investment in road and rail to get that production to port.

Those same activities and industries are “migrating” to Northland and now is the time for the Crown – through KiwiRail – to put in place the infrastructure to support the considerable growth underway.

“The ‘North of Plenty’ is kind of like the Bay of Plenty for the next decade on,” he said.

KiwiRail has spent the past three months on geotechnical studies for a potential route from Oakleigh, on the North Auckland Line south of Whangarei, to Northport at Marsden Point. But the cost, estimated at about $200 million, is only a fraction of the expected $2 billion bill that could be required to bring track, tunnels and bridges on the rest of the Auckland to Northland line up to standard to handle major freight volumes.

Funding for the spur line study was provided from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First member and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

NZ First has also driven an investigation into the feasibility of relocating Ports of Auckland to Northport. That is being considered by a five-member working group tasked with developing a broader strategy to better integrate transport logistics chains in the upper North Island.

Challenged on the prioritisation of the Northland project, Moyle told National MP Paul Goldsmith that the funding of a business case for a third heavy rail track on the main line between Wiri and Westfield in South Auckland is being separately funded through the National Land Transport Fund. Adding capacity to this section of the southern line is considered critical to meeting both freight and commuter growth through Auckland. 

MPs were briefed by the Auditor-General’s office before the meeting. Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross said that briefing didn’t leave him with a lot of confidence that the broader machinery of government understands how Provincial Growth Funds are being allocated and accounted for.

He particularly questioned a $50 million working capital allocation KiwiRail has received and $80 million provided for tourism opportunities.

Moyle said $135 million has been received for specific projects, including a regional freight hub at Palmerston North and upgraded rolling stock for the company’s TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific tourism services.

The $50 million of working capital will be used to restore track on regional routes that are otherwise in decline.

David Gordon, group general manager for investment and planning, said the PGF funding was enabling the company to bring forward investments that had a “compelling” business case.

“These were items which didn’t just come out of the ether. These are things we’ve been thinking about for a long time.”

KiwiRail, bought back by the government in 2008, has been hamstrung for decades by a lack of capital to maintain the country’s 4,000-kilometre track network and invest in new engines and more flexible rolling stock to remain competitive.

Ageing trains and tracks have seen speed restrictions placed on many routes, further reducing the competitiveness of freight services.

The previous government provided additional capital in two-yearly blocks – $450 million for the period through to mid-2019 – while it struggled to find a longer-term funding solution.

While the company’s financial performance is improving, Moyle said capital injections from the Crown being essential for the foreseeable future.

Miller said rail globally is enjoying a renaissance, both in tourism and because of the considerable returns rail freight provides by reducing road congestion and emissions.

KiwiRail’s growth plan for the next decade will be a critical part of delivering those benefits here, he said.

However, decades of under-spending will take a long time to correct. How that is funded is up to the government, he said.

“What matters to us is that it is a long-term funding model for the benefit of our primary exporters and domestic freight customers. Sustainable funding, rather than being a political football, is the ideal outcome for us.”

Works start on a notorious stretch of SH1

Works have started on one of the worst accident black spots on State Highway One.

No caption

Photo: The Wireless / Luke McPake

Starting tonight, contractors will be felling trees and removing vegetation in the Dome Valley, north of Auckland.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said crews would be working overnight from 7pm to 6am, to minimise traffic disruption.

The job will take about two weeks.

The work will clear the way for major safety improvements along a 15km stretch from Wellsford to north of Warkworth, and includes widening, right-hand turning bays and flexible road safety barriers.

The winding road through the Dome Valley is notorious for crashes.

NZTA is advising motorists travelling between Northland and Auckland to plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys.

NZTA re-evaluating Auckland’s much maligned East-West Link


An artist’s impression of the original East-West Link planned by the previous National government.

Auckland’s much maligned East-West Link (EWL) motorway project is back on the table according to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) which is currently re-evaluating it.

The EWL project was first unveiled in 2014 by the then National-led government which said it was a way to link SH20 at Onehunga to SH1 at Sylvia Park Mount Wellington. The planned four lane highway, which was earmarked as a priority roading project, was expected to cost up to $1.85 billion.

But after a change of government the new Labour-led administration announced in November 2017 that it was scrapping it. It had fallen down the pecking order of Auckland infrastructure projects and Transport Minister Phil Twyford instead redirected a lot of the government’s funding towards public transport.

However, in April last year Twyford did a u-turn on the controversial motorway project and announced that a new low cost version of the EWL would be looked at as part of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and earmarked $800 million dollars for the new proposal.

So now almost a year later where are things at?

An NZTA spokesperson now says East-West Link is one of a number of projects currently under review by the agency as it looks to see whether it still aligns with its “new vison” for Auckland’s transport network.

“Once this work has been completed, work on the project may proceed as currently planned, be staged differently or we may explore lower cost options. The NZ Transport Agency Board met in December to consider next steps, however there is still more work to be done. We expect to be able to make announcements about decisions on this project in the coming months.”

The NZTA announced in January last year that it had been granted resource consent to proceed with the project. But it said that the consents were enabling and not obligatory. In other words the project can go ahead if and when government funding is secured.

A spokesperson for the Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the government is looking at a lower cost version of the EWL and is hoping to make an announcement on it in the next few months. But no further details are available at this stage. 

National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith says the government’s latest proposal isn’t good enough.

“Our understanding is that the government is considering a half measure replacement, that will not solve the congestion challenges in the area,” Goldsmith says. “The East-West Link has fallen victim to the government’s blinkered pursuit of its expensive slow tram to the airport. The result will be more congestion in Auckland.” 

But the grand proposal put forward by National before the last election wasn’t cheap. According to Infrastructure New Zealand the proposed EWL would have cost $327 million per kilometre, something its critics were keen to highlight. With some even describing it as the most expensive roading project in the world.

“It’s an enormous amount of money on a very short link of dubious value that does a great deal of destruction to the natural environment,” Greater Auckland author Patrick Reynolds said.

But despite the massive cost of the National Party proposal, Infrastructure New Zealand chief executive Stephen Selwood said it was an important project.

“We have another million people coming to Auckland by 2050. We really need to be getting on with providing transport infrastructure needed to support the city’s growth.”

Infrastructure New Zealand is a lobby group which represents both public and private sector organisations with the goal of facilitating the growth of New Zealand’s infrastructure and influencing central, regional and local government decision making.

KiwiRail pleased with early Northland studies

KiwiRail says it is pleased with work undertaken to date on a potential extension of its rail network to Northport at Marsden Point.

The firm began geotechnical work in late October on a route for a 20-kilometre spur line from Oakleigh, running east toward Marsden Point.

The final drilling was completed today and further exploration work will continue this year, acting chief executive Todd Moyle said in a statement.

“Our investigations have focused on areas where the most significant engineering works would be needed,” he said.

“Concurrently we are looking at how we can upgrade the North Auckland Line between Auckland and Oakleigh. The tunnels on that line are old, low and narrow. We have had two significant derailments on the line in recent months due to a lack of funding for maintenance. It has been unable to carry passengers for the past year and freight options are restricted.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones visited the drilling site today.

New Zealand First has driven an investigation into the feasibility of relocating Ports of Auckland to Northport. That is being considered by a five-member working group tasked with developing a broader strategy to better integrate transport logistics chains in the upper North Island.

The cost of the new spur line was estimated at $100 million a decade ago. Bringing the Auckland to Northland line up to standard to handle major freight volumes has previously been estimated at more than $2 billion.

Jones, a list MP, lives in Northland and is a fan of rail. Tourism and freight projects of state-owned KiwiRail have so far received close to $90 million from the Provincial Growth Fund he oversees, including funding for the Northland spur study.

KiwiRail chair Greg Miller says significant agricultural and horticultural investment going into Northland will require an efficient supply chain.

The Provincial Growth Fund will allow a renewal of regional rail and there is a growing acceptance of the wider benefits rail brings by taking trucks off roads, reducing road maintenance costs and improving road safety, he says.

“There is a long way to go in Northland but we are heartened by what we have found so far.”