Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Auckland port boss: We should have been more open

Ports of Auckland says it is working to regain its social licence after being buffeted by public opposition and a court ruling last year over plans to extend one of its container wharves.

The company has been recognised as the "Best Seaport in Oceania" in an award announced today for its efficiency, infrastucture and fees.

However, its chief executive Tony Gibson said it could have handled the proposed Bledisloe Wharf extension better.

"We handled it the way we should from the legal perspective but in hindsight we should have had an open book with the public - there's no question about that," he said. "We're now working hard to regain our social licence to operate."

This included working on its credentials as a sustainable operator and engaging the community.

The Auckland council-owned company is braced for further scrutiny in the leadup to this year's local body elections, especially in the wake of a Future Port study which will report its findings next month.

Besides leaving the port where it is, the working group had shortlisted the Manukau Harbour, Firth of Thames and Muriwai as possible alternatives for a new port.

Already mayoral candidates were taking positions on where it should go with momentum to shift it from the prime waterfront location.

"We've always been a political football, it's the main game in town but what you've got to do is focus on the business," Gibson said.

Some "chitter chatter" around the debate had not been well founded.

"All we want is certainty and that's what we're hoping to get out of the Ports Future study and that's what our customers want. If the owners want us out then find us a home where we can perform the freight task and deliver a good customer service."

The port is owned by Auckland Council. All we're doing with theis chitter chatter and some of it's not very well founded.

Ports of Auckland. Photo /  Doug Sherring
Ports of Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

"If the owners want us out then find us a home where we can perform the freight task and deliver a good customer service.''

In the first six months of the year net profit came to $31.6 million - up 9.5 per cent on the same period a year earlier - despite revenue falling by 2.2 per cent to $106.1 million.

Gibson said freight volumes were down but its full year result would be likely be on par with that of last year when the company reported a net profit of $63.2 million.
The global cargo market was still tough, he said.

We've always been a political football, it's the main game in town but what you've got to do is focus on the business.

The shipping industry itself was in a terrible state.

There had be a 7 per cent increase in supply during the past year and just a 1 per cent increase in growth. Around 20 per cent of the container capacity had been laid up and there had been a 47 per cent drop in freight rates.

"There's alot of stress out there."

This was putting more pressure on ports to become more efficient and trim costs. The company says that in 2015 its crane rate efficiency improved by 10 per cent.

Auckland beat the Australian eastern seaboard ports which were finalists for the Oceania title which was voted on by shippers and industry experts.

- NZ Herald

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