Shipping containers have been blown into the Bluff harbour as severe weather hits Southland.
A stevedore said several 40ft containers, which were in a stack of five high, had blown over, some falling into the water.
It is believed about 10 were in the water.
The containers were empty and tug boats in the water were out securing them.
“It’s very rare.”
The stevedore expected the containers to eventually sink and then be pulled out by a crane.
South Port chief executive Nigel Gear said the “current situation is that, due to particularly strong winds, some containers have been dislodged from the stack and have landed both in the yard and also into the berth area”.
“The container terminal therefore has been closed down for safety reasons (standard practice) and we are currently working through the process of securing the containers that have fallen into the berth.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, especially the wind conditions, over the next 24 hours.”
Up the road, Invercargill is the windiest place in the country at the moment, being hit by forceful 120kmh westerly wind gusts and persistent rain.
There are power outages throughout the region with some businesses closing early because of no power.
Air New Zealand flights both arriving and departing the city had been delayed.
Severe weather warnings and watches have been issued for severe westerly quarter gales with the Canterbury High Country and coastal Clutha, Southland and Stewart Island most at risk.
Metservice data showed just over 4mm of rain had fallen in Invercargill so far on Wednesday.
Fourteen millimetres of rain was forecast for the day.
Wind watches and warnings are expected to ease on Wednesday night. However, the strong winds were forecast to continue, not dropping below 30kmh until 6pm Thursday.
Metservice forecast 22mm of rain to fall on Thursday as well.
Several places throughout the country recorded gusts over 100kmh on Tuesday.
Stewart Island saw the biggest gust with 148kmh, while Castlepoint saw 119kmh. Both Remutaka Hill near Wellington and Swampy Summit near Dunedin saw gusts of 113kmh.
A road snowfall warning has been issued for the Crown Range Rd and the Milford Rd.
Snow showers are expected to affect higher parts of the Crown Range Rd between midday and 6pm on Thursday, when 1cm or less of snow may settle on the road above 900 metres.
Snow showers were expected to affect the summit of the Milford Road between 10pm on Wednesday and 6am on Thursday, when 1 or 2cm of snow may settle.
Schoolgirl activist Greta Thunberg blasted the UK for “very creative carbon accounting” because it doesn’t count emissions from global flights or shipping.
And New Zealand is also excluding international aviation and navigation (shipping) from its carbon budgets.
Environmental groups say that is breaching the landmark Paris Agreement, signed four years ago.
But Climate Minister James Shaw has defended the practice, arguing the emissions are monitored under two separate international agreements.
Stuff asked the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) for emissions for aviation and shipping. Those units are measured in kilotonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (kt CO2-e).
Those from global flights have risen significantly from 1332.9 kt CO2-e in 1990, to 3702.7 kt CO2-e in 2017, the last available figure.
International navigation has dropped slightly: from 1055.9 kt CO2-e to 916.4 kt CO2-e, across the same period.
And while those numbers are recorded in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas inventory, they are not reported under its international obligations.
“That’s because the Paris Agreement doesn’t include aviation and shipping,” Shaw says. “They are handled via separate agreements – the aviation one is called Corsia, and the shipping one is Marpol.
“We are also working through those agreements.
“Now, I think Greta Thunberg makes a good point, that for visibility, we ought to get everything all in one place, and I think you can make that case, but we built the zero carbon bill around the Paris agreement, and that is why it is structured that way.”
Shaw is correct: international shipping and aviation were left out of the national targets under the Paris Agreement, because they don’t happen within the boundaries of any specific countries and tracking their emissions through the global supply chain is difficult.
As well as that, a good fuel alternative isn’t yet available.
Instead, under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement, we submit overall territorial emissions figures to the UN. In New Zealand, the bulk of those emissions come from agriculture (48 per cent) and energy (41 per cent). In 2017, our gross greenhouse gas emissions were 80,853 kt CO2-e.
Shipping produces 2.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and aviation yields about two per cent. Both are also projected to rise dramatically by 2050.
Marpol is short for marine pollution – but New Zealand is one of a handful of countries yet to sign up to a sixth part of the agreement, which focuses on reducing shipping fumes.
ELECTRIC AEROPLANES AND ‘DIRTY SLUDGE’
The global economy runs on shipping and air freight. And tourism is New Zealand’s biggest export sector.
Shaw says flag carrier airline Air New Zealand, with majority government ownership, is trying to drive down emissions while expanding the business.
“I’m actually pretty pleased with the leadership that Air NZ is showing on aviation emissions… [chief executive] Chris Luxon reckons that we will have electric aeroplanes, at least for our regional routes, at least within 10 years or so.
“Obviously the big one is international and it will take a lot longer for the technology to develop there.
“But they have got a significant off-setting programme…it’s not ideal, but the next best thing you can do is off-set and I would encourage people to off-set if their work involves travel.”
Under the UN Paris pact, Air New Zealand must report its domestic flight emissions to the Government. But other countries – like China – haven’t signed up to those obligations.
“The truth is that we have a lot of airlines in parts of the world which are expanding rapidly, they are very low cost, they are leasing in, or buying, second-hand planes from the leading airlines [which] are much less fuel efficient. So, for all the good work that is happening with some airlines, unfortunately you are seeing much more expansion on the other side. It is an area of real concern.”
Shaw is less effusive about shipping.
“Ships tend to use the lowest quality, highest emissions fuels. Bunker oil, which is basically dirty sludge. There is a lot of work to be done there.”
“There are some things we can do here in New Zealand – with the ferries, some of our coastal fleets, and fishing, but that is pretty small fry when you compare it to the freight routes.
“We can supply ships with cleaner fuel here in New Zealand. The question is: are the ships able to swap fuel types? That is why international co-operation is so important.
“We have to make sure those fuels are available in every port …And that we are putting pressure on the shipping lines to swap out the dirty old technologies for much cleaner alternatives.”
HYPOCRITICAL AND UNJUST
Amanda Larsson, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, agrees we are cheating on our emissions reporting.
“And it is predominantly wealthy countries where people have the resources to be able to do international travel that aren’t accounting for those emissions,” she said.
“Developing countries are already bearing the brunt of the climate impact of our warming world and carbon industries, like poor air quality and health effects.
“The fact that wealthier countries, like New Zealand and the UK, with a high proportion of carbon emissions can say ‘we are reducing our emissions aren’t we great,’ while offloading a lot of those emissions onto developing countries or not accounting for them all as in the case of aviation is an injustice, and a bit hypocritical.”
Larsson says New Zealand should be one of the strongest voices for the decarbonisation of global aviation. That would include counting emissions from tourism and flights arriving here. She’d also like to see a levy on international tourism, that is ring-fenced to invest in carbon-lowering activities.
“We are country that is reliant on international tourism and has a culture of travelling overseas…we can’t have sustainable tourism in New Zealand if it’s growth is fuelled by aeroplanes that are powered by fossil fuels.”
We are also ‘outsourcing’ a chunk of other emissions. Around 22 per cent of global CO2 emissions stem from the production of consumer goods that are exported to a different country, according to a 2012 study.
“It effectively means effectively means that we in New Zealand are offloading those emissions from our consumption on countries like China, or wherever those products are produced,” Larsson said.
“People often complain that New Zealand is too small to have an impact on the climate and what really needs to happen is for China to act. That is actually ignoring the critical point that we are driving the production of a lot of these products in China and driving up China’s emissions from the consumption of products [and] then we don’t account for them.”
In April, the European Transport & Environment non-governmental organisation agreed with Thunberg’s stance – and said they believe it is a breach of the Paris Agreement.
Aviation manager Andrew Murphy told the Guardian: “We believe the Paris agreement is clear that international aviation and shipping should be included in national climate targets. Paris calls for a bottom-up approach so individual states can include what they want in their budgets. We don’t see this outsourcing of responsibility by governments for international aviation and shipping as consistent with Paris. It breaches the agreement.”
The UK claims its greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 42 per cent since 1990. Thunberg claimed the true reduction was about 10 per cent.
Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and shipping and marine supplier Nippon Yuka Kogyo, a NYK Group company, have jointly developed a new fuel oil additive for low-sulfur compliant fuel-oil that meets SOx emission requirements.
Yunic 800VLS — patent pending — is Japan’s first additive for very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO), NYK said.
The additive is said to improve safety by helping to avoid troubles that may be caused by certain contents of VLSFO, according to the company.
A global sulfur cap will enter into force on January 1, 2020, and one way ships can meet the requirement is by using VLSFO – a fuel oil with a sulfur content below 0.5%. However, a wide variety of VLSFO is expected to be supplied because the manufacturing process differs from conventional heavy fuel oil, which has a sulfur content of up to 3.5%.
NYK and Nippon Yuka Kogyo thus began examining VLSFO at an early stage and have developed an additive that will lessen the likelihood of the VLSFO causing engine problems.
Specifically, Yunic 800VLS disperses asphaltene and paraffin (wax) specific within VLSFOs to suppress sludge formation.
The effect of Yunic 800VLS has been certified by ClassNK.
“The NYK Group seeks to be compliant with the 2020 SOx cap and enrich safe operations by introducing this new fuel-oil additive for VLSFO,” NYK said in a statement.
NYK in biofuel research and testing
Separately, NYK Line and Japan Engine Corporation (J-ENG) revealed they would start the research and development of biofuel using a test engine as one of the solutions for decarbonization.
Considered to be a carbon-neutral fuel, biofuel is a fuel derived from organic substance or biomass.
Biofuel has been attracting attention as an alternative fuel as one of the promising renewable energy toward decarbonization and one of the solutions against the energy crisis due to the depletion of natural resources such as fossil fuel.
In addition, since biofuel emits almost no sulfur oxides (SOx) in combustion, its use as a marine fuel is expected to be expanded.
In collaboration with NYK Line, J-ENG plans to carry out the engine test using the biofuel from GoodFuels, a biofuel supplier based in the Netherlands.
An inland port in west Auckland and a vehicle importing and servicing centre at Northport are among a dozen potential transport investments a working group is considering to improve freight handling in the upper North Island.
The group, formed last year, has spent the past eight months talking with users and imagining how the existing ports at Auckland, Marsden Point and Tauranga – and the road and rail links between them – could be reconfigured to provide the best options for long-term growth.
It plans to report back to the government in June with options and complete more detailed costings and recommendations in September.
“There are a large number of infrastructure options that may have a part or full place to play in changes to the upper North Island supply chain which will be considered,” chair Wayne Brown says in a progress report filed with Cabinet’s Economic Development Committee earlier this month.
“For example, in evaluating one of our options that involves moving some of Ports of Auckland’s freight task to Northport, we will consider potential infrastructure that may be required to support this,” the group says.
They include: “a spur to Northport, which we understand the current government is investigating; upgrades to the existing North Auckland Line; potential short-term operational changes, such as moving freight through Auckland on the commuter network at night; potential long-term new infrastructure requirements such as a new rail line out west of Auckland to avoid congestion in the Auckland public transport rail network and connect through to the current inland freight terminals; and the potential establishment of new inland freight terminals.”
The Upper North Island Supply Chain study was the result of a pre-election pledge by NZ First to move container operation from Ports of Auckland to Northport by 2027.
While there is broad consensus that Auckland’s port will be increasingly constrained by the city’s development around it, there is no agreement as to how soon change is needed, how much freight could be redirected through Tauranga or Northport, and how that would be achieved.
As recently as 2016 a study group recommended work start assessing Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames as long-term replacement options for Auckland. Last August, Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said there wasn’t yet sufficient freight volume in Northland to warrant the relocation north. Port of Tauranga owns half of Northport.
Auckland and Tauranga are the country’s two largest container ports. With Northport, they handle about half the country’s exports and two-thirds of its import volumes.
Tauranga and Auckland, controlled by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Auckland Council respectively, compete for freight. They considered a merger in 2006 but talks collapsed the following year. Ports of Auckland has a 20 percent stake in Northland Regional Council-controlled Marsden Maritime Holdings, Tauranga’s partner in Northport.
The working group noted submitters’ views that the “interwoven” nature of the three ports’ ownership had prevented them being developed in New Zealand’s best interests and had resulted in some inefficiencies and “duplication” of resources.
“We will be considering the current ownership structure of ports and whether a change may be needed to ensure interests are aligned to deliver the best outcome for New Zealand,” the group says.
“Councils were somewhat open to a change in port ownership as long as they preserved their income and value of the port to their community.”
Ports are long-term businesses. The working group is canvassing issues in 10-, 25- and 50-year timeframes.
Scope is also important. Freight operators argue Northport, west of the Marsden Point oil refinery, could meet growth on Auckland’s North Shore, rather than replacing Ports of Auckland entirely.
Short-term options could include establishing a distribution centre at Silverdale or Orewa; imports and Northland products could be trucked there overnight – avoiding congestion on SH1 – for day-time delivery into Auckland.
Northport already plays a similar role. Structural components for some major Auckland building projects are stored there for just-in-time delivery to avoid congestion in the CBD.
Car imports have already been identified as a potential early change. Ten hectares of new space at Northport could provide storage for 10,000 cars. Auckland currently receives about 300,000 cars annually, each of which spends close to three days on its wharves.
Northport started operating in 2002 and is largely a blank canvas. Its 49-hectare footprint can be expanded to 75 ha, while its berth length can be more than doubled to 1,390 metres. The port lies next to 180 ha of commercial and industrial land controlled by shareholder Marsden Maritime.
But it has limited capital for development and no rail link. KiwiRail and the Ministry of Transport are investigating a $200 million, 20-kilometre spur line, but that is probably more than six years away even if there was a prompt decision to proceed.
The existing line from Swanson to Fonterra’s Kauri dairy plant north of Whangarei also needs upgrading at a cost of another $500 million to carry larger and heavier container traffic. KiwiRail has previously estimated the total bill – including upgrading rail capacity from South Auckland – at about $2 billion.
The working group noted its “fundamental” belief that there is “no point making further investment in Northport without investment in, and development of, the train line to Auckland.”
Moving some or all of Auckland’s port out of the city and revitalising Northland’s port including building a rail line between the two are some of the options canvassed in a new report.
However, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has warned against the potential loss of income from Ports of Auckland if it were moved or downsized, saying if the annual $50 million dividend was lost it could lead to a 4 per cent rate rise.
The first of three progress reports by a working group tasked with investigating New Zealand’s upper North Island supply chain strategy outlines key information about the country’s three main ports: Ports of Auckland on the city’s waterfront, Northport at Marsden Point near Whāngārei and Port of Tauranga.
The ports are critical to New Zealand’s freight task and together account for half of the country’s total export volume and two-thirds of its import volume, in tonnes.
Port of Tauranga handled the highest volume of all New Zealand ports (in tonnes) and was the most successful of the three upper North Island ports having capitalised on rail infrastructure provided to the Bay of Plenty region by the Government.
“We will therefore be considering whether similar investment in Northland would provide similar results for the region and Northport,” the working group said.
The report, released by Associate Minister of Transport Shane Jones, noted that overall imports are expected to increase across all upper North Island regions while exports will increase initially before declining at Northport and Port of Tauranga, largely because of projected decline in log exports.
However, it said roading and rail in the Northland region was so lacking that the working group “fundamentally believe there is no point making further investment in Northport without investment and development of the train line to Auckland”.
“… it is generally agreed that the lack of rail infrastructure and connectivity to Northport has hindered Northland’s economic development.”
Ports of Auckland occupied 77ha of Auckland waterfront with a book value of $735m, though this was thought to be well below valuation of comparable industrial land.
“This excludes the massive social, cultural, environmental and economic value that would be created by transforming this property into a globally iconic waterfront,” the working group said.
Stakeholders including the ports, shareholders and the road freight and shipping industries named several issues surrounding the current port system including:
• They are competing and not co-operating;
• Lack of rail infrastructure and port connectivity had been a brake on Northland’s economic development;
• Unanimous support for a fully functioning rail system to the ports;
• Concerns over duplication of port and inland port assets;
• Congestion was the main problem for freight operators.
Options to make the three ports work better included the Northland to Auckland rail spur, a second route between Auckland and Tauranga, a freight corridor through West Auckland, a West Auckland inland port, an expanded or moved Southdown inland port, a new mega port in the Firth of Thames, a vehicle servicing and import facility at Northport and a New Zealand dry dock.
Goff welcomed the report but said it did not present an analysis of options, the business case for each and the impact of each option on Auckland, the region and the country.
“The relocation of the Port out of Auckland’s city centre has some clear advantages.
“It would ultimately open up 77 hectares of central city and harbourside land and wharves for alternative and potentially more valuable uses.
“As in other international cities, it could enhance the attractiveness of Auckland as a place to live, work, enjoy and to visit. It would also reduce congestion caused by freight movement and pollution from associated activities.”
However, he said as a city of 1.7 million people making up 35 per cent of New Zealand’s population, Auckland needed to have the most cost-effective and efficient way of delivering goods and services to its people.
“Vital to the decision of moving Auckland’s port is the impact of each alternative location on Auckland consumers and businesses.”
Aucklanders needed to know whether and how much alternative port sites added to costs for the city, Goff said.
“We also need to ensure that the working group on the supply chain strategy considers the value of the investment Aucklanders have made in their port and the dividend return they get from it which in past years has been $50 million – equivalent to a 3 to 4 per cent rate increase if that dividend is lost.”
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said the progress report identified well-known issues such as the need for increased investment in road and rail networks and the historic financial under-performance and inconsistent reporting by some ports.
He said Port of Tauranga challenged some of the “facts, assumptions and implications” in the interim report, and were hopeful they will be addressed before the next report.
“For example, the report states that the Bay of Plenty and Waikato have benefitted from rail infrastructure and investment provided by the Government at no capital cost to the end user.
“This ignores the $267 million in rail costs paid by Port of Tauranga since 2010.”
National’s Transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith claimed the interim report showed a “thinly disguised preference for massive investment in rail between South Auckland and Northport, leading to a shift of activity away from the Ports of Auckland to Northport”.
“It also seems to be peddling the concept of a nationalised ports monopoly in the upper North Island. There is no evidence or analysis to back up the suggestion that such a nationalised monopoly would be more efficient than current arrangements.
“There is no evidence to suggest the billions it would cost to upgrade rail from Auckland to Whangarei, plus building a new spur to Marsden point and a new freight line across Auckland, would be the best use of scarce transport resources and would lead to a better outcome for exporters or consumers.”
Goldsmith said the Government was “quite right” to be inquiring into the efficiency of freight movements across the NOrth Island and planning for the long term future.
“We support careful and considered planning of future investment. Which is why National has supported the Government’s planned Infrastructure Commission to advise on such things. The direction of this report, however, undermines the Infrastructure Commission approach.”
A second report outlining advantages to changing from the status quo, international comparisons and a long-term view will be presented to Cabinet in June.
The final report with recommendations for future development and strategy will be presented to Cabinet in September.
Upper North Island ports by the numbers
• Exported 3.25 million revenue tonnes in one year, mostly logs as well as kiwifruit, steel and woodchip;
• Imported considerably lower amount of 311,000 tonnes to June 2018.
Port of Tauranga
• Accounted for 43 per cent of New Zealand’s total export volume in year to June 2018;
• 55 per cent of exports are wood and paper products, majority of which are logs.
Ports of Auckland
• Second largest container port after Tauranga, Ports of Auckland is significant for imports because of the population it serves – 35 per cent of New Zealand’s population.
• Largest importer of vehicles. In year to June 2018, Ports of Auckland handled almost 300,000 cars, a 43 per cent increase from 2014.
• Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga have an import-export imbalance – Auckland has higher imports and Tauranga higher exports. It means about 40 per cent of 20-foot containers stand empty.
Independent commissioners have granted consent to build the $10 million extension to Queens Wharf which will provide berthage for large cruise ships.
The 90-metre fixed gangway extension and two 15m by 15m concrete mooring structures fixed to the seabed, known as dolphin, is now set to go ahead.
The wharf can currently provide for cruise ships up to 294m and the dolphins will allow for ships of up to 362m.
Panuku Development Auckland lodged the resource consent application in July last year, which was followed by public submissions and five days of hearings.
Yesterday, the panel of three announced their decision to grant resource consent for the dolphins, subject to certain conditions.
“The proposal by Panuku that the occupation consent for the dolphins expire once Captain Cook Wharf is operational as a large cruise ship berth, or in 15 years’ time (whichever is the earlier), and that the structures are then removed, was a key feature of the application that weighed in its favour,” they said.
Numerous community and urban design groups have been fighting to stop the dolphin proposal, opposing further expansion of the harbour for port use.
Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater said allowing consent to be given was a disappointing outcome.
“We should be using existing infrastructure to berth these boats,” he told Newstalk ZB.
“This resource consent outcome is a failure of leadership by Mayor Goff and Auckland Council who have valued corporate welfare for the cruise industry over the long term wellbeing of our harbour.
Goldwater highlighted the potential environmental impact the extension could have on the harbour as a major concern.
However, the commissioners believed the impacts could be “avoided, remedied or mitigated” to an acceptable level.
Panuku Development chief operating officer David Rankin said the decision was being welcomed by the organisation.
The decision will enable to necessary infrastructure for the cruise industry to ensure continued growth to the sector, he said.
“The decision has thrown a lifeline to the cruise industry, which is facing increasing pressure from international ports to compete as larger ships continue to enter the market,” he said.
“Our growing cruise ship industry provides significant economic benefits to Auckland businesses; last year cruise ships transported nearly 270,000 passengers directly to the heart of our city providing a boost to the $200 million and 3000 local jobs that the cruise industry adds to the region’s economy.”
New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O’Sullivan also agreed the decision was an important win for the local industry.
“It will ensure that Auckland will continue to be an important and integral part of regional cruise tourism,” he said.
“The provision of infrastructure for these larger cruise ships in Auckland will integrate well into the considerable development of infrastructure of large ships which has been carried out in other New Zealand ports.”
Following the decision from the commissioners, an appeal period is now open until May 15 for those who made submissions on the application.
An artist’s impression of a port-less Auckland. Graphic/Stop Stealing Our Harbour
New Zealand First appears as closed-minded on the Ports of Auckland as the other vested interests, who are either opposing change or advocating for alternatives.However dysfunctional those charged with providing vital transport infrastructure can be, they somehow always manage an instant massed-wagon-circling at the very mention of reform.
The Government is about to receive reports on both the future location of the Ports of Auckland and the feasibility of upgrading Northland’s rail. Labour’s support partner, New Zealand First, is fervently committed to moving some of Auckland’s port business to Northland, saying it will relieve our biggest city of congestion and bring much-needed growth to the north. For the coalition, this could become a make-or-break issue.
Unfortunately, NZ First appears as closed-minded on the issues as the other vested interests, who are either opposing change or advocating for alternatives, such as Tauranga, the Firth of Thames or Manukau Harbour.
Because of the complex governance and ownership issues of Ports of Auckland and other potentially affected ports and public entities, any Government changes will be extremely hard to negotiate. The choices available will also be sandbagged by the virtual impossibility of getting any case for new or restored rail to stack up financially.
However, the biggest hurdle will be patch protection – not just from commercial interests, but also from public agencies who too quickly forget the wider obligation that their state-conferred monopoly status puts on them.
Chief interested party is Auckland Council, which owns 100% of the Ports of Auckland. It has consistently defended its right to the port’s undiminished annual dividend of more than $50 million – to the point of vowing to build a multistorey waterfront car park for more revenue.
Mayor Phil Goff is adamant the port is essential to Auckland’s future. However, this assertion is debatable, given that a city such as Sydney survives very well with its harbour reserved for cruise ships and cargo sent to Port Botany, Wollongong or Newcastle.
Loss of port revenue would, however, doubtless force Aucklanders to pay for the loss with even higher rates, for benefits mostly accruing outside its boundaries. This would be unfair, especially to those on low incomes, and so politically dangerous that no sane administration would cause it to happen.
Perhaps a better starting point would be to regularise, even centralise, the haphazard patchwork of ports ownership. This would inevitably land the Government with a fat compensation bill, but the existing potpourri of local body, port-specific and private shareholders is a barrier to efficiency. Intra-agency competition and multiple interests – Auckland part-owns Tauranga’s and Northland’s port as well – further occlude the picture.
The National Party’s policy of treating the ports as discrete commercial entities immune from state interference is recklessly hands-off. But, by the same token, Aucklanders may be incensed at seeing their port asset commandeered, especially with NZ First so blatantly using Northland as its electoral base.
Yet, Auckland’s port must somehow be restored to being part of the national ports network. Aucklanders, used to the city’s infamous congestion, would be the first to agree it remains an international embarrassment that a prime waterfront site is used to store second-hand cars. Moving the port would unlock 77ha of superb shore land.
Northland’s Marsden Point tempts as an existing deep-water port, which, with a suitable rail spur from the Auckland line, could handle the business. Tourist and even commuter growth could ensue. Yet, there are other considerations, including the likelihood that moving the port to Northland would hugely increase congestion in Auckland, since most goods exported out of it are produced south of the city and would have to pass through it. Even if some of the goods went by train – and the expense of building rail tracks could itself prove prohibitive – the trains would be more frequent and longer, causing frustrating delays at level crossings. There are also the climate-change considerations, with increased emissions from transporting freight over longer distances.
In New Zealand, 99.7% of all imports and exports travel by sea, so the ports issue is not trivial. Any changes to these assets will affect, for better or worse, numerous other sectors and projects, not least the still-uncosted light rail to Auckland Airport. The sheer complexity and political risk may simply end in inertia. But everyone concerned has a duty to approach this debate with the country’s best interests at heart.
OPINION: The future of Auckland’s downtown port deserves careful and unemotive consideration – the problem is, it will become entangled in two elections in the next two years.
The big question is, should all or part of Ports of Auckland’s current operations go elsewhere, either to existing upper North Island ports, or to a brand new port?
Before the 2017 general election New Zealand First pledged to move the whole thing to Northland by 2027 – with the vehicle import trade gone this year.
A working group led by former Far North mayor Wayne Brown has finished an interim report after canvassing the views of major stakeholders on the futures of the three major upper North Island ports, but it has yet to go to cabinet, and is described as “non-decision-making.”.
A more substantial “final” report from the group is expected in September, a month before local body elections.
That is expected to be only the end of the beginning of the debate, signalling the investigations needed if the idea is to be pursued.
Those who were at an early meeting involving Brown and Auckland mayor Phil Goff, described the tone as “interesting”, and the pair clashed publicly even before that meeting.
Goff is navigating a tricky political path, having himself campaigned in 2016 on moving the car trade, and eventually the port, but now having to defend the interests of ratepayers who own Ports of Auckland through the council.
The mayor has quickly filed away a report he commissioned in 2017, hoped to show the economic argument for shifting the vehicle trade out of Auckland.
The report by NZIER in fact found the gain of reclaiming part of the waterfront to be $115 million, but the net cost of losing the trade to be around $1 billion.
If the Brown group report is delivered in the run-up to the local body elections it risks fuelling political posturing on an issue needing no urgent decisions.
Ports of Auckland is working to ensure it can do its job for another 30-40 years within its existing footprint, and even then no one knows what new technology, or trade patterns might extend that.
Automation of the container terminal alone will nearly double the capacity it has today.
Ugly though the port might be, it directly employs about 500 staff, pays $68m in wages, and chips a $51m annual profit into council coffers.
In short, it may never have to move, but there are arguments in favour of it doing so, and releasing prime waterfront land for more public enjoyment.
Any huffing and puffing this year over the port might pale against what could happen next year, as the parties in the coalition government return to their individual stances in the run-up to the general election.
NZ First will want to show progress on its 2017 pledge, with both leader Winston Peters and list MP Shane Jones – who oversees the port work – wanting to keep faith with their Northland supporters.
Labour’s influence in the cautiously worded work now underway suggests less enthusiasm for a rush to undertake the biggest infrastructure project the country has ever seen, in relocating all or part of a port, with the roading and rail links needed.
Of all the policies the NZ First Party brought into this coalition Government, the wildest and wackiest was to move the entire port of Auckland to Marsden Pt. The Labour Party agreed only to commission a feasibility study the idea of moving the port and left open the choice of alternative sites. Winston Peters, hoping to hold the Northland seat, promised to move the whole operation to Northport, but the coalition agreement merely directed Northport be given “serious consideration”.
The feasibility study led by former Far North District mayor Wayne Brown is reported to have produced an interim report for the Government and its tentative suggestions ought to be interesting. The fact that ministers will receive at the same time a report on upgrading the railway from Auckland the Marsden Pt suggests Northport is the preferred alternative for at least some of Auckland’s imports.
Doubtless there are countless ways that goods shipped to or from New Zealand could be better shared between various ports, not only for more efficient handling and distribution but also to stop the Auckland port encroaching ever further on the Waitematā harbour.
Doubtless too, the companies running ports would quickly find a more efficient use of them — within the constraints on Auckland — if Ports of Auckland Ltd had commercial shareholders.
Its nearest rivals, Port of Tauranga and Northport, are majority owned by their local bodies but also have tradeable shares which has resulted in a degree of cross-ownership. Tauranga has a stake in Northport, as does Ports of Auckland Ltd. But PoAL is entirely owned by the Auckland Council which has been averse to any of its business going to other ports.
Total public ownership has been a mixed blessing for Auckland citizens. While the council collects all the port’s dividends it suffers a conflict of interest when Aucklanders oppose the port’s further expansion. Despite a long campaign to stop the port company extending wharves for the latest cruise ships, the council is allowing moored “dolphins” and walkways to extend Queens Wharf.
Mayor Phil Goff did not exactly welcome news this week that an interim report of the feasibility study has arrived on ministers’ desks. “Any decisions on the future of Ports of Auckland should have the agreement of the council,” he said. “We accept that at some point the growth of freight into Auckland will outgrow the land available…..” Citizens opposed to further harbour reclamation would say that point was reached some time ago. Goff said the same when he stood for election.
“However, the port is also a critical lifeline of freight into our city,” he says now. No it is not. Freight from any other port could reach Auckland, making room for cruise ships within Auckland port’s existing harbour footprint.
Most of Auckland’s port is unlikely to be going anywhere. The feasibility study should be looking at rationalising the use of all New Zealand Ports but it should not suppose politicians can best decide where freight goes. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is planning to partially float its port at Napier. If the Auckland Council did likewise it would see the city’s interests more clearly.
At the end of last year, the world’s largest shipping company Maersk revealed plans on becoming a carbon neutral company by 2050.
The efforts are in line with the shipping industry’s push to halve its carbon footprint by 2050 compared to 2008.
“We do not by net-zero refer to off-setting CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. By committing to this target, we believe we will drive the transformation of the shipping industry towards use of carbon-neutral fuels,” the company said in its sustainability report for 2018.
Maersk believes that efficiency can only keep shipping emissions stable, not reduce or eliminate them.
“Nevertheless, until decarbonisation is achieved, decoupling business growth from emissions is a necessity, and we have set an efficiency target of 60% relative reduction in CO2 by 2030 from a 2008 baseline. With these targets, we are breaking the mould for climate targets and ambitions in the shipping industry.”
Maersk had set a target of 60% relative reductions by 2020, using a 2007 baseline. By the end of 2018, the company reached 47% reduction since 2007.
These have been achieved through massive investments in optimizing fleet efficiency, with technical retrofittings including capacity boost, new bulbous bows, propellers and engine modifications, as well as by improving planning and optimizing of networks.
However, as explained, this is not enough to reach 60% in two years’ time.
Hence, the company pointed out that massive innovative solutions and fuel transformation must take place in the next 5-10 years.
“Over the last four years alone, we have invested USD 1 billion and engaged 50+ engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficiency solutions. We expect this investment level to be sustained in pursuit of our new targets. Efficiency gains do not, however, solve the climate change problem. That can only be achieved through decarbonization,” the company said.
Transformation of the 100-Year Old Business Model
Transforming the shipping industry which has run on relatively cheap, heavy fuel for 100 years is not an easy task. In addition to new ship designs and engine types, there is a need for new types of fuel as well as building entire new supply chains for these new solutions, Maersk insists.
“All of this breakthrough innovation will have to take place in the 2020s and is more than any single company can do,” the company adds.
As a result, the shipping major urges all parties involved to collaborate on incentives and development of innovative solutions to usher in the age of zero-carbon vessels.
“We want to begin a dialogue with cargo owners, regulators, researchers, investors and technology developers, and together set the foundation for a sustainable industry,” Maersk said, pointing out that research and development will be the cornerstone in decarbonizing the shipping industry.
The Pursuit of Solutions Must Begin Now
Zero-emission, commercially-viable vessels must be on the water by 2030, Maersk believes, especially due to the 20-25-year lifetime of a vessel.
“This should be followed by an initial slow ramping up, allowing maturing of technology and supply chain in order to be able to turn around our entire fleet for net-zero carbon emissions in 2050. This leaves us and the industry only eleven years to find the right solutions for a positive business case for decarbonization.
“For the next few years, it is very important not to rule out any solutions. There are several promising technologies at various stages of development. All solutions will come with benefits and challenges to be overcome and only by actively partnering, collaborating and undertaking research and development will we know which ones will win out. There are several technologies and fuels being developed these years within the areas such as advanced biofuels and hydrogen-based fuels.”
Maersk said that it has already engaged in research and test programs in some of these technologies, for example sustainable biofuels.
“Over the coming years, we will expand the range of solutions we are investigating. This will prepare us for selecting a few candidates we will pursue for the first carbon-neutral vessels.
” Our 2030 efficiency target is strong enough to ensure that we continue to decouple CO2 emission levels from growth in trade and volumes shipped. With this target, we will not exacerbate our contribution to climate change while we grow our business, serve global trade and support job creation.”