The Port of Tauranga has set a new record after processing one million shipping containers in one year.

Chief executive Mark Cairns said the was a momentous occasion was reached on Tuesday last week.

"We are the first port in New Zealand to reach the milestone''.

''We have gone from a small, insignificant regional port to the largest port in New Zealand by a good margin.''

According to Statistics NZ, the Port of Tauranga was the largest port by volume in the country.

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The Port of Tauranga had spent $350 million on a 10-year capital investment programme to enable it to become ''big ship'' capable. The upgrade was beginning to pay dividends, Mr Cairns said.

''It has been a good year and a relief to get the dredging programme done as 6 million cubic metres of material was excavated off the sea floor. There is a lot of risks involved with earthmoving and even more when it's under water.''

Ships that can hold 9,500 containers are coming into the Port weekly to load New Zealand export cargoes which are shipped directly to North Asia.

''They are double the size that was previously calling into New Zealand, and we are getting those ships sooner than we expected.''

''These shipping lines are only calling into Tauranga, and they aren't calling into any other New Zealand or Australian Port with these large vessels.''

About 41 per cent of New Zealand's total exports by value flowed through the Port of Tauranga, Mr Cairns said. The primary products included dairy, meat, forestry, paper, linea boards, pulp, kiwifruit, apples and onions.

At any one time, there would be more than 2000 people working at the port, which had increased along with the trade through the Port, Mr Cairns said.

In August the Port would also announce its financial results and estimates indicated the 2015/16, $79m profit would be surpassed.

''Our best estimate to the market is $79m to $83m, so we are confident we will have an increase in profitability that is matched in trade by hitting the million-containers cargo mark.''

Mr Cairns said he was looking forward to celebrating with customers and major stakeholders at a function on Tuesday.

Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the port was ''an extremely important asset for the city's economy''.

''Its strength is an important driver of business growth and a key competitive advantage in the attraction of new business to the city - we see that on a weekly basis.''

The success it had following its bold expansion programme shows investment for the future could pay dividends for the port and the wider region, he said.

''It also places us in an excellent position for the future.''

Businesses would also benefit by the bigger ships.

''Ships of that size offer local businesses excellent efficiency and time to market for their existing customers and access to new markets that they simply wouldn't have otherwise.''

Tauranga City Council Mayor Greg Brownless said the port was well run and competitive.

Its impact on the region's employment, directly and indirectly, was enormous and great for the community, he said.