Update 1: 16 March 2020
With the COVID-19 situation escalating rapidly, I wanted to update you on the measures the port is taking to secure Auckland’s maritime supply lines.
As one of Auckland’s lifeline utilities we are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure that 1.7 million Aucklanders can continue to get key essentials through the port. We’re also acutely aware that many Auckland businesses rely on getting imports in or exports out via our port to keep their businesses running.
I want to reassure you that we are doing all we can to safeguard our ability to service ships, so we can continue to serve you.
Impact so far:
To date there has been no impact on our ability to operate.
Container volumes were down 15% in February as a result of restrictions in China and we expect the same for March. April bookings look firmer now that China is starting to get back up and running, but volumes to other countries may be impacted.
General cargo volumes have not changed much but we do expect vehicle volumes to fall as a result of lower demand and disruption to the vehicle supply chain overseas.
Cruise visits are now suspended, with 30 visits cancelled.
In our view, the impact of COVID-19 could last until September or longer.
Our actions to date:
We are doing everything we can to prevent our staff from getting sick. While some of our staff can work from home, quite obviously we can’t run a port without people on site. For that reason, preventing our staff from getting sick is crucial.
We have been operating with increased border controls since January. This has included not handling ships which had called in high-risk areas and/or ships with crew who had transferred from high-risk areas in the 14 days before they were due in port.
The most recent restrictions from Government are helpful. With the closure of the cruise industry, we are now able to focus on handling freight. Shore leave for ship crews has been stopped. International transfers are still allowed, but we have put in place measures to ensure crew do not interact with our staff.
Staff interactions with ship crews is being kept to a minimum and our staff have effective personal protective equipment and training.
We are preparing to put in place land-side control measures.
We have also:
• Brought forward the provision of flu vaccinations;
• Provided clear advice to staff on how to avoid infection;
• Required staff returning from international travel to stay home for 14 days;
• Banned international business travel
• Cancelled non-essential meetings;
• Provided additional leave to ensure sick staff stay home;
• Provided Employee Assistance Programme support for staff.
Last week we successfully completed the first trial ship-loading operation. A vessel completed its regular container exchange and was then moved to the new northern berth to top-up with empty containers. This went very well and a second, larger practice is planned this week.
The recently announced travel restrictions will impact on the go-live planned for the end of the month. We were awaiting the arrival of key staff from The Netherlands who need to be on site for go live, and this is now not possible with a 14-day self-isolation period. We are currently figuring out how we can work around this restriction, possibly through remote access.
Reduced volumes through the container terminal have had some upside for automation. We have been able to accelerate staff training and we will be able to bring forward some infrastructure work that is needed for phase 2 go live. We hope that this will allow us to still hit our planned full go live date in late May, early June.
Automation could prove to be a crucial tool in our efforts to keep the port operational, especially if large numbers of our stevedoring staff get sick.
What you can do:
We need your help to keep the port open. Ensure your staff know how to protect themselves from infection. If any of your staff are sick or have travelled in the past 14 days, please ensure they do not come to the port. These simple steps will help us help you.
I hope this update is useful. I will provide further updates as the situation changes.
Ports of Auckland.