There are safety and congestion fears for the road north of Auckland, after news a container ship diverted to Northland will result in nearly 2700 more truck trips before Christmas.
The ship, run by ANL Container Lines, was originally scheduled to stop at Auckland’s port on December 5 but congestion relating to the Covid-19 impact globally and a lack of staff meant the date was delayed to December 22.
Northport agreed to step-up to help, even though the 261m ship will be the largest berthed at the port and it is not fully equipped to unload it, chief executive Jon Moore said in a statement.
Constantinos P will berth at Northport on Sunday and cargo will be unloaded by mobile crane, ready to be carted by road from Thursday.
But the plan has raised serious safety concerns for the 140km road between Marsden Point and Auckland, according to National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken.
There will be 2680 extra truck trips on the road due to the ship’s diversion – with trucks having to travel from Auckland to Northport, and then back.
“There is poor roading infrastructure between Auckland and Northport, including two accident black spots at Dome Valley and the Brynderwyns,” he said.
Truck drivers are already at capacity due to the Christmas rush, and they will be interacting with holiday traffic, Aitken said.
“The road is not perfect, and they are going to be sending guys [truck drivers], used to driving metro, on the open road.”
Aitken said there was a lack of alternatives to the road, with the North Auckland rail line currently closed by a $110 million redevelopment.
It is not due to reopen until January 11, although a link to the port’s location at Marsden Point has not been built.
While Northport said coastal shipping was being considered, Aitken did not know what ships would be available to take the containers.
ANL had found a solution to suit themselves, without thinking of the wider consequences, he said, and more work needed to be done to improve the supply chain in the North Island.
Moore agreed, saying there was a need for continued central government investment in road, rail and coastal shipping infrastructure.
“While current supply-chain issues impacting the country might be unprecedented, they demonstrate clearly the need for a resilient and geographically-astute Upper North Island Supply Chain strategy that makes best use of the three existing ports.”
ANL has been contacted for comment about the road concerns.
In a statement, the company said it was taking a proactive solution to support retail and the economy.
“We are confident in the capabilities of Northport and glad that we have found this solution with them. Furthermore, we believe Northport will be a suitable alternative gateway for North Island customers.”