Will merger affect Port of Napier?

RACHEL PINDER
It's too early to tell if the proposed merger between the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga will have a knock-on effect on the Port of Napier.
That's according to Port of Napier's chief executive Garth Cowie, who remains positive about the Port's long-term prospects.
"The proposed merger of the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga is a response to a changing international container shipping industry.
"Over the past 18 months there have been a series of mergers and acquisitions which have consolidated the number of lines operating globally and in New Zealand.
"During this period, especially in 2006, Napier's container throughput has continued to grow despite significant change in our industry," he said.
"The Port of Napier remains focused and committed to ensuring regional importers and exporters in central New Zealand are well served by a range of shipping services, both coastally and internationally.
"But until the final form of any merger or alliance is known, it is too early to tell how the proposed merger will impact," Mr Cowie said.
His comments come after the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga yesterday revealed plans for a super-port - tipped to favour Tauranga at the expense of Auckland - to increase efficiency, following moves by some shipping lines to serve fewer ports.
The announcement comes days before the world's largest container shipping line, Maersk, picks which of the two ports will win its exclusive business.
Port of Tauranga chairman John Parker said his company was discussing options with the Auckland company, which includes the possibility of a merger of both port operations.
He would not give details of the proposed ownership structure of the merged entity, but said the "obvious vehicle" would be the stock-exchange listed Tauranga port company.
Industry observers said Auckland Regional Council's holding company would probably retain ownership of Ports of Auckland's waterfront and Port of Tauranga would wholly own the super port.
The regional council holding company last year bought back the 20 percent of Ports of Auckland the council had privatised on the stock exchange more than a decade earlier.
There are plans to rezone the area - owned mainly by the port company - for mixed commercial, residential and marine-industry use and public space.
The Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association said the merger made sense, and would hopefully give the two ports the critical mass to be less dependent on big shipping lines.
The plan could also allow the regional councils, which own the ports, to to rationalise their dominant ownership.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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