Napier Port looks to big future growth despite dip in profit

By Patrick O'Sullivan -
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STEPPING UP: Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie says the rail-freighting of logs  "makes a lot of sense" as volumes increase.  
November 17th 2016. Hawke's Bay Today Photograph Paul Taylor
STEPPING UP: Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie says the rail-freighting of logs "makes a lot of sense" as volumes increase. November 17th 2016. Hawke's Bay Today Photograph Paul Taylor

Rising volumes have not brought rising profit for Napier Port, which has again announced a reduced annual profit.

For the year to the end of September the profit was $11.5 million, down from $12.9m in 2015 and $13.4m in 2014.

Chief executive Garth Cowie said it was a "solid performance" despite the profit decline, with the lower figure reflecting higher depreciation, amortisation and impairment interest charges.

Most other numbers were up. Revenue was $72.7m, from $72.1m the year previous.

The dividend paid to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council company that owns Napier Port rose from $7.4m to $7.9m and EBITDA had a "pleasing increase" of 1.7 per cent on the previous year to $30.3m.

He said $10.3m was spent on infrastructure and equipment, part of $90m spent over the last four years to "well position" the port to handle increasing export volumes.

The total numbers of container units handled was 257,380, up from 256,438 last year and 220,048 in 2014. It exported more than 22,000 container units of apples, an 8.5 per cent increase on 2015, loaded more than 100 log vessels and 2 million tonnes of bulk cargo.

Mr Cowie said the amount of rail traffic was expected to increase, especially while Wellington's quake-damaged CentrePort was out of action, and the rail-freighting of logs from Wairoa next year "makes a lot of sense".

Log volumes were projected to double by 2020, lifting to about 2.8 million logs by 2026.

To enable more logs to be handled the time logs spent on the wharf needed to decrease, so pricing would change.

By 2026 it was projected the port would be handling about 360,000 container units, an increase of about 40 per cent, with one tenth of them apples.

He predicted "a huge step up" in cruise ship visitors over the next 10 years from this year's 100,000 passengers and crew.

Napier Port chairman Alasdair MacLeod paid tribute to previous chairman Jim Scotland for helping lay "a solid foundation" for the port's growth phase.

"There is no question we are expecting very significant growth over the next five years," he said.

"We have a wall of wood coming towards us and we have a pipfruit industry that is going absolutely gangbusters.

"This is the food and fibre region and both sides of that show real signs of continued growth."

Planning for resource consent for a new wharf which was needed to remain "sustainably relevant", was well under way.

He said sustainable relevance was the port's second main objective behind health and safety "and thankfully we went 676 days without a lost-time injury".

"I also want to acknowledge that every day we go without an accident we are one day closer to the next one, so we never get smug about it."

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