The announcement that Port of Tauranga will become the only New Zealand port of call for the extra-large 9500 TEU vessels that will operate on Maersk Line's new Taiwan/NZ direct route validates the capital investment in dredging, says chief executive Mark Cairns.
As well, the ship visit underlines the view of many observers that the recent Port Future Study, which looked at Ports of Auckland's needs 50 years out, missed the mark.
The study's key shortlisted options basically came down to continuing with the current site in the short-to-mid term, but a multi-billion-dollar outlay in the mid-to-long term to move the port to a new location, with Manukau Harbour and the Firth of Thames possible sites.
Port of Tauranga chairman David Pilkington said he was surprised at the study's suggested options of building a new mega port, and its failure to reflect that Port of Tauranga and Northport (50 per cent owned by the port) could handle expected extra container volumes for at least the next 20 years.
However, the decision to project out 50 years meant dealing with variables that could drastically affect the outcome, he said, especially when it assumed a higher compounding growth rate than was current in the industry.
"The focus ought to be on what is the logical import and export infrastructure that NZ needs to capitalise on the big ships that are coming."
Some people had dismissed the likelihood of big ship arrivals, he said, but the new Maersk Line route from Taiwan indicated it could happen much faster than people were expecting.
"When it happens then [Port of Tauranga's] ability to aggregate export cargo efficiently at a single export port in the upper North Island has huge advantages. We'd be delighted to sit down with Auckland and Northport and look at various scenarios. I'm sure we could do it far, far cheaper than the figures being bandied around to relocate Auckland."
Priority One chairman Brett Hewlett said that, from a Tauranga perspective, the study " did not reflect the capabilities of Port of Tauranga and Northport. Port of Tauranga was in a very good position to be New Zealand's big gateway port.