Work begins on rail line and work promised for Northland contractors

Northland civil contractors are poised to land contracts in the Auckland to Northland rail link rejuvenation work. Photo/John Stone
Northland civil contractors are poised to land contracts in the Auckland to Northland rail link rejuvenation work. Photo/John Stone

By: Imran AliImran Ali is a reporter for the Northern

Significant opportunities are in store for Northland contractors as work on the Auckland to Northland rail link starts after government investment.

Teams have started surveying the 181km line and KiwiRail has signalled it wants to use Northland businesses where possible from December when consultants for bridge replacement and tunnel works are hired.

KiwiRail has been given $94.8 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to get the line back on track and build its freight capacity.

The State-owned enterprise briefed about 40 Northland construction contractors this week in Whangārei about future work opportunities on rejuvenating Northland’s rail lines.

KiwiRail chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon said the briefing was to ensure large and small civil construction contractors in Northland were aware of upcoming work, what the requirements were and who qualified.

“There will be a mix of larger and smaller jobs making up the overall programme of works,”Gordon said.

“We have ensured that where possible the work is broken into bite-sized pieces suitable for smaller contractors. The meeting was well attended.”

Gordon said working in the rail corridor brought with it special safety requirements that were different from roads and other civil construction.

He said survey teams have already begun gathering detailed information to help design bridge replacements and plan essential tunnel maintenance.

The work is expected to finish by the end of November.

“Northland’s railway lines are underused at the moment because of their condition. The [North Auckland Line] is around 100 years old, is mothballed north of Kauri and the whole line has been in a state of ‘managed decline’ until its future was determined,” Gordon said.

The survey work was a major step in turning that around, he said.

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones made the funding announcement last month.

‘Ignoring the obvious’: Transport expert implores light rail rethink

Advocates claim the light rail project could be replaced with a 6km heavy rail line to Puhinui to join up with the existing lines into the city centre.

Calls for Minister Twyford to resign over the inept handling of this project.

The Government could save $2.5 billion if it’s willing to ditch its Auckland CBD to airport light rail plan in favour of the most logical and fastest option – extending existing rail lines, an expert says. 

Transport advocates have called the Government’s plans to build a light rail link from Auckland CBD to Auckland Airport “short-sighted” and a “disaster” for the city. 

Advocates claim the light rail project could be replaced with a 6km heavy rail line to Puhinui to join up with the existing lines into the city centre – a rethink which could potentially save the Government around $2.5 billion. 

“In what’s being planned, it’s kind of like a modern version of a tram service, especially when it runs alongside an existing street. It’s not like a heavy rail network which has its own corridor,” says NZ Transport 2050 chair Paul Miller. 

There’s a vast area of unused land that covers 6.5km between the south-western motorway, the main rail line, and the airport, Mr Miller told The AM Show on Wednesday. It’s only a short distance to connect the existing line to the airport, he says. 

“We don’t really understand why [the Government isn’t] looking at this. This seems the most obvious thing. We’re investing $3 billion in the central rail loop at the moment that’s going to make heavy rail really useful for Auckland.” 

The promise to build light rail from Auckland’s CBD to Auckland Airport within a decade was Jacinda Ardern’s first major policy announcement as Leader of the Opposition last year. The plan was backed by the Greens who want rail to the airport by 2021. 

Extending existing rail lines could be completed for just $500 million, says NZ Transport 2050 chair Paul Miller.
Extending existing rail lines could be completed for just $500 million, says NZ Transport 2050 chair Paul Miller. Photo credit: Newshub

“[The Government] made a big election promise about light rail and how it can solve every problem in the public transport world. But they are ignoring the obvious, and that’s the challenge that we have with them,” Mr Miller says. 

The Government plans to build a light rail track running alongside Dominion Rd. But Mr Miller says the proposed light rail track will not be able to cope with the number of passengers, which is expected to double in the next 10 years. 

He told The AM Show the only international city to have light rail as their primary airport link is Seattle in Washington. He said, if Seattle had the opportunity to extend their existing rail lines, they would have done so. 

But Transport Minister Phil Twyford has said the planned light rail was not about making an express service, but about building a rapid transport network across Auckland City, whereby it could encourage people to not drive. 

He brushed off calls to extend the existing line in June, saying “heavy engineering” at the Puhinui end would make the project too expensive. 

“This is not primarily about giving tourists an express train to the airport to catch a plane; it’s about connecting the two biggest concentrations – the CBD and airport precinct,” said Mr Twyford. 

But Mr Miller says the extending existing rail lines could be completed for just $500 million, in contract to the estimated $3.5 billion cost projected by Mr Twyford for the Dominion Rd light rail to the airport. 

“I live off Dominion Rd, and I would love to see light rail on Dominion Rd, but fit for purpose light rail, not something that’s the equivalent of the southern motorway going down it,” he said. 


2017/18 National Freight Demand Study

The 17/18 Freight demand study, the first for five years, was released recently without fanfare. Here is a link to the report.

There are many interesting findings, too many to list here. But in a nutshell comparing 2017/18 with the previous report period in 2012, rail volume decreased 17% (partly due to the Kaikoura earthquake), and domestic sea freight volume increased 12%.

Overall billions of tonne/km increased 10.5% from 29.51 to 32.62.

Government has given NZTA an extra $45m after damning ‘wake-up call’ report

Transport Minister Phil Twyford today released the NZ Transport Agency's regulatory review. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Transport Minister Phil Twyford today released the NZ Transport Agency’s regulatory review. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jason Walls

By: Jason WallsJason Walls is a political reporter for the New Zealand

The Government will inject the New Zealand Transport Agency with an extra $45 million after an independent report concluded it had failed in one of its major responsibilities.

But the Government blames National for the failures in the transport sector that led to Transport Minister Phil Twyford commissioning an independent report investigating NZTA.

The review, undertaken by agency Martin Jenkins, found that previous transport ministers had directed NZTA to “focus on building roads” at the expense of keeping people safe.

The report also found that NZTA had failed to properly regulate the transport sector under the previous Government.

In response to the review, the Government has confirmed it will adopt all of its recommendations and plans to implement them as soon as possible.

The recommendations include:

• Injecting NZTA with an extra $45 million to help bolster its regulatory obligations
• Create a statutory Director of Land Transport who is responsible for carrying out NZTA’s regulatory functions and powers
• Getting NZTA’s board to develop a new regulatory strategy
• Instructing the Ministry of Transport to update the NZTA’s regulatory objectives

Twyford said these changes would help to equip NZTA for the massive transformation the agency will undergo in the coming years.

Ministry of Transport chief executive Peter Mersi welcomed the report and its findings this morning.

“As [the] monitor of transport Crown agencies, we share responsibility for the regulatory failure.”

He said the report was a “wake-up call” for the ministry.

In November last year, Twyford directed the Ministry of Transport to review the performance NZTA’s regulatory functions.

The review comes on the back of a number of concerns which emerged around NZTA’s regulatory function and a backlog of compliance cases that have not been properly managed.

“When this issue was brought to my attention I was seriously concerned about the scope and seriousness of the failures that have occurred,” Twyford said at the time.

Samsung Heavy to Build Six Evergreen Boxships Giants

SHI, Evergreen signing ceremony

Image Courtesy: Samsung Heavy Industries

South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries has signed shipbuilding deals for Evergreen’s latest ultra-large containerships, valued at a total of USD 920 million.

The order was placed for the construction of six of the world’s largest container ships, with a capacity of 23,000 TEUs, by May 2022.

The giants will feature a length of 400 meters and a width of 61.5 meters. They will be capable of transporting 23,764 twenty-foot containers at once.

The order exceeds Samsung Heavy’s previous ultra-large container ship, that can transport 23,756 containers, delivered to Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) in July 2019.

Samsung Heavy said the vessels will be equipped with its latest smart ship technologies for low fuel consumption and safe sailing.

“The demand for ultra-large containerships is expected to continue as global ship owners have reduced cost through an economy of scale,” an SHI official said, adding that the shipbuilder is therefore expected to “keep leading the ultra-large boxships market.”

The latest contract has pushed Samsung Heavy’s orderbook to USD 5.1 billion so far this year. It now includes 35 vessels, meeting 65 percent of the shipbuilder’s annual target of USD 7.8 billion.

In September 2019, the Taiwanese shipping major Evergreen confirmed its plans to build a total of ten 23,000 TEU containerships at three shipyards.

Apart from the units ordered from SHI, the company said that China’s Jiangnan Shipyard and Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding would construct another two ships each. The value of the entire order stands between USD 1.4 billion and USD 1.6 billion.

World Maritime News Staff

Shipping is overtaking aviation in emission reductions

in International Shipping News 14/10/2019

Shipping and aviation emit more than 5% (pdf) of the world’s greenhouse gases, not to mention black carbon, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Left unchecked, their emissions could eat up nearly a third of the world’s “carbon budget,” the allowable emissions to keep the Earth’s climate below 2°C of warming this century.

It has left a giant hole in the world’s climate strategy because the industries don’t fall under any single country’s jurisdiction. But the aviation and shipping sectors, seeing a low-carbon future, have begun to act.

Aviation went first.

In 2010, international aviation said it would halt emissions growth after 2020 and committed to 2% annual fuel efficiency improvements starting in 2021. It set up an offsetting scheme to reduce emissions as it transitioned away from fossil fuels.

Shipping, as late as 2016, did little despite being responsible for more than 3% (pdf) of global emissions and set to hit 17% by 2050.

Shipping has not only caught up, it has exceeded aviation, says Ned Harvey, who manages the heavy-industry program for the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). “Eighteen months ago, shipping was the laggard,” he said in an interview. “Now it’s leading.”

In 2018, the International Maritime Organization agreed to emission reductions of 50% below 2008 levels by mid-century. Financiers are adopting an emissions standard for shipping to assess their climate risk. Perhaps even more important is the launch of a carbon-neutral fleet of commercial ships starting in 2030. By that time, say scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions must have begun their steep decline toward net-zero by 2050 to avert catastrophic warming.

While neither sector’s emission targets will meet the 1.5°C goal agreed upon in the Paris climate agreement in 2015, shipping is now far closer than aviation. The airline industry lacks a clear plan to cut absolute emissions before 2030 or an accelerated program to wean itself off high-carbon fuels. That’s likely to exert enormous pressure on the aviation sector.

Why shipping?
Three factors have come together to accelerate shipping’s ambitions. First, pressure in the supply chain is driving cargo ship operators to clean up their act. Companies such as Amazon are committing to make their operations carbon neutral (or negative), and turning screws on companies that don’t help them comply.

Second, technology favors emission reductions in shipping. Whereas design tolerances for aircraft are tight, ships can more easily be modified for new fuels, larger batteries, and new hull designs. Hydrogen fuels, for example, may substitute for fossil fuels. Today’s (updated) ships could be retrofitted, while aircraft would need to be entirely redesigned at a cost of many billions of dollars. “We can (and are) building engines that can burn zero-emission fuels,” states the Global Maritime Forum, which is testing fuels derived from biomass, hydrogen from renewable electricity, and natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage.

Finally, banks are already moving to identify the highest emitters in the shipping industry, and evaluate them against international climate targets. That may restrict their access to capital in the future as banks seek to reduce their exposure to climate risk. The Poseidon Principles, announced this June, is the first shared standard for banks to measure and disclose climate risk in shipping, or any sector for that matter, says RMI, which helped negotiate it over two years. Eleven banks with $100 billion in shipping debt have now agreed on an emission baseline to assess climate risk and companies’ ability to meet international targets.

The Poseidon Principles, argues RMI, solve a central problem for global emission reductions: collective action. Any one firm (or country) acting alone is ineffective, even putting it at a competitive disadvantage. To succeed, firms need to compete on the same playing field. By giving banks leverage, transparency, and accountability to enforce emission targets and reduce their portfolios’ “carbon exposure” and risks related to climate regulation, laggards are pressured to catch up. A quarter of the shipping industry’s senior debt is now held by banks in the Poseidon agreement, a share that should rise to more than half by the end of the year, says RMI.

The industry’s “moon shot” goal is to float a commercial deep-sea zero-emission vessel by 2030 as a prelude to decarbonizing the fleet. Last year, the International Maritime Organization agreed to cut GHG emissions 50% below 2008 levels by mid-century, putting it, theoretically, within reach of emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. In the meantime, the industry is exploring a suite of options, including slowing down ship speeds by 30% to save fuel (supported by chief executives of at least 107 shipping companies) and alternative fuel sources (biofuels, ammonia, hydrogen, or batteries). Little time is left to act. Given the 30-year lifespan of modern container ships, the next 18 months will be crucial for investors, ports, and shipyards to develop new marine fuels, propulsion, and infrastructure for a carbon-free transition.

Warming skies
The aviation industry isn’t idle. US airlines’ fuel efficiency rose 130% between 1978 and 2018, according to the trade association Airlines for America, allowing the industry to transport 42% more passengers and cargo while only releasing 3% more emissions.

But its early ambitious goals are now behind the science calling for a world with less than 2°C warming. The rise in the number of air passengers, set to double by 2035, has swamped efficiency gains by a factor of three in recent years. Cutting back emissions has become harder as efficiency improvements yield less gains over time (most were from normal turnover of aging aircraft). Flying, which already accounts for more than 2% (pdf) of global CO2 emissions, could soar to nearly a quarter of global GHG emissions by mid-century.

Unlike shipping, aviation doesn’t have an clear path to give up fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. The industry has agreed to keep emissions at 2020 levels, but to meet its goal of zero-carbon growth it must invest in emission reductions in other sectors. It’s relying on a combination of better technology, efficiencies such as satellite aircraft control, and offsets. Lots of offsets.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, properly administrated, say groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, could tamp down emissions, but a few details have to be ironed out. If not well designed, or kept cheaper than alternatives, the industry will never be incentivized to develop low-carbon synthetic fuels. Such solutions are years (perhaps decades) away from leaving the ground. While electric and hybrid aircraft are taking off (Sweden and Norway plan to eliminate fossil fuels for all short-haul flights by 2040), they won’t be suitable for longer flights for the foreseeable future.

Yet pressure is building. If governments don’t act, customers will. “Flight shaming” is spreading from Europe to the US, convincing travelers to forgo air flights and ratcheting up pressure on the industry to move faster. In Sweden, flights have fallen by 9% this year, in part due to flygskam, or flight shame. Germany is proposing taxing airlines and subsidizing rail. “Unchallenged, this antiflying sentiment will grow and spread,” Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association, told Bloomberg. “Politicians aren’t sticking up for us.”
Source: QZ

One month on from Saudi oil facility attack and motorists are still paying more at the pump

Petrol prices in New Zealand are yet to return to levels experienced prior to an air strike on a Saudi Arabian oil facility a month ago.

On September 15, drones were used to attack oil processing facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia causing the price of Brent crude, one of two global benchmark prices for oil, to jump US$6.45 (NZ$10.23) to trade at US$66.67 a barrell (159 litres).

In response BP and Z Energy increased the price of petrol and diesel in New Zealand by 6 cents a litre. The petrol companies said the hike was due to the Saudi attacks and currency movement. The New Zealand dollar had softened against the US at the time.

One month on from the attacks and New Zealanders are still paying more for petrol despite oil prices dropping below pre-attack levels weeks ago. On Saturday Brent crude traded at US$60.69.

Larry Green from petrol price comparison app Gaspy said before the attack the national average price of 91 unleaded in New Zealand was $2.16.

The drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil plants roughly halved the country's oil output for a time.
The drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil plants roughly halved the country’s oil output for a time.

After the attack it spiked to $2.22. On Monday the national average was $2.19.

Green said petrol companies were quick to hike their prices in response to the attack but slow to return them to pre-attack levels.

“Price rise very quickly and are very slow to come down,” Green said.

Gaspy co-founder Larry Green says petrol prices are dropping, just much slower than they increased.
SUPPLIEDGaspy co-founder Larry Green says petrol prices are dropping, just much slower than they increased.

Z and BP said there were a number of factors that influenced the price of fuel, oil prices being just one of them.

Z spokeswoman Victoria Crockford said its prices were determined by a range of factors that changed daily, including but not limited to the cost of crude oil, foreign exchange rates, the cost of transport, the cost of site infrastructure and maintenance and local competition in the area.

“So, while Brent Crude is a natural indicator for people to look to, and one we use in our overall equation, it is by no means a ‘cent for cent’ process in terms of our everyday pricing – neither when prices go up, nor when they go down,” Crockford said.

Petrol companies hiked petrol prices by 6 cents a litre immediately after an attack on a Saudi oil facility.
GETTY IMAGESPetrol companies hiked petrol prices by 6 cents a litre immediately after an attack on a Saudi oil facility.

She said the cost to freight crude oil from the Middle East to New Zealand had increased up to 3 per cent off the back of US sanctions on Iran that implicated a large Chinese shipping company which shipped 3 per cent of global freight.

BP spokeswoman Anna Radich said its prices were reviewed every day to ensure they were as competitive as possible.

BP explains fuel pricing on its website.

AA petrol spokesman Mark Stockdale said tracking petrol price movements was difficult because there was such variation across the country.

“There’s just so much regional price disparity,” Stockdale said.

Automobile Association petrol spokesman Mark Stockdale says petrol prices are more closely linked to competition than oil prices.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/STUFFAutomobile Association petrol spokesman Mark Stockdale says petrol prices are more closely linked to competition than oil prices.

“The market is much harder to monitor than it used to be as a result of the increasing level of price competition within regions and between regions.”

In some parts of the country prices hadn’t changed since before the Saudi attack, he said.

The price of refined petrol was disparate from the commodity price, he said.

“It’s much more closely linked to competitive behaviour.”

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment carries out weekly monitoring of importer margins for petrol.

The importer margin is the gross margin available to fuel retailers to cover domestic transportation, distribution and retailing costs in New Zealand, as well as profit margins.

The provisional weekly average importer margin for the first week of October was 27.62 cents per litre, compared to 27.95c per litre a month ago, showing margins had dropped slightly since the Saudi oil strike.


Biggest cruise season looms, but NZ hasn’t signed global treaty to reduce its ship emissions

A record 123 cruise ships are set to visit Wellington this year, but New Zealand isn’t yet contributing to reducing global ship emissions. 

New Zealand and Mexico are the only two countries in the OECD not signed to an international agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel. 

Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter said  New Zealand was a party to MARPOL, (The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) however previous governments had chosen not to sign up to Annex VI which regulated shipping emissions affecting human health and the climate.  

Officials had investigated “the pros and cons” of signing up to Annex VI and the Ministry of Transport had recently finished consultation.

“I expect to take a recommendation to Cabinet on this matter before the end of this year.”

Last year, emissions from a single cruise ship visit in Wellington were the equivalent to more than  200,000 extra cars per day, according to Emission Impossible director Dr Gerda Kuschel. 

Her calculation found that was nearly more emissions than all of Wellington’s cars in one day.

The Annex VI will be in place for those nations signed to the agreement, currently 91,  from January 1, 2020. 

The type of fuel burned by diesel engines in ships typically results in higher amount of various pollutant gases and ultra-fine particle emissions, compared to car engines.
JOHN BISSET/STUFFThe type of fuel burned by diesel engines in ships typically results in higher amount of various pollutant gases and ultra-fine particle emissions, compared to car engines.

It would mean all cruise ships visiting New Zealand ports would need to meet much tighter requirements, she said. 

“That might mean that although more ships come here, the local impact might be much reduced due to lower sulphur fuels.” 

WellingtonNZ General Manager David Perks said it was “a very interesting time” for how to balance economic growth with climate change. 

New Zealand is one of just two countries in the OECD not signed to an international agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFFNew Zealand is one of just two countries in the OECD not signed to an international agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel.

“It’s crucial that the tourism industry becomes leaders in sustainability as people become increasingly conscious of the emissions their travel produces,” he said. 

“They want to know change is being made in the destinations they visit to make it worthwhile.”  

MOT International Connections manager Tom Forster said cabinet would be receiving advice on potential Annex VI accession. 

“A decision to accede would be followed by a treaty examination, including a select committee process. 

Shipping has been highlighted by the Ministry for the Environment as an emerging issue, but the country has no regulation on air quality from ships.
KEVIN STENT/STUFFShipping has been highlighted by the Ministry for the Environment as an emerging issue, but the country has no regulation on air quality from ships.

“This will provide interested parties with a further opportunity to express their views.” 

The 123-ship season beats 110 in 2019 and 82 in 2018. In 2007-2008 just 38 cruise ships berthed in Wellington. 

Shipping has been highlighted by the Ministry for the Environment as an emerging issue, but the country has no regulation on air quality from ships.

The Marlborough District Council has previously said there would be strong benefits for the region – in particular Picton and the Marlborough Sounds – if New Zealand signed the global agreement.

StraitNZ CEO Louise Struthers said Bluebridge supported the signing of the treaty, and would be able to comply with any new requirements within its existing fleet. 

Interislander general manager Walter Rushbrook said KiwiRail made a submission in favour of adopting Annex VI. 

Kiwirail is in the process of replacing its ferry fleet with two new larger ferries, which will be capable of complying with international standards, including the Annex VI. 

“Having long-term certainty of fuel and emissions regulations is necessary as we embark on a major fleet investment programme.” 


Aucklanders get opportunity to walk section of $4.4b City Rail Link

A section of the Auckland City Rail Link will be open to the public next month.

City Rail Link revealed on Wednesday it will hold an open day, giving Aucklanders the opportunity to walk a section of the 3.45 kilometre-long tunnels being built for the project.

Chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney says it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy a “brief snapshot” of New Zealand’s largest-ever infrastructure project.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” Dr Sweeney said.

He said it was a chance to show off some of the “outstanding engineering” behind the project.

It’s hoped it will be an experience people will remember for the rest of their lives, Dr Sweeney said.

“It’s a great chance for us to say, ‘thank you’ to people for the support they are giving the project.”

Work on the rail link started in early 2016, with about four more years of work still to come.