Port of Tauranga has announced a 8.5 per cent lift in half-year profit and an 8 per cent growth in volumes.

And New Zealand's largest freight gateway yesterday said it expected to become the first port in the country to transport more than one million containers in a single year.

These results were seen by port leaders as a vindication of capital spending on dredging and infrastructure.

"We're relieved we got the customers to come," said chief executive Mark Cairns. "We haven't built a white elephant."


Mr Cairns said the port was servicing larger ships earlier than it had expected to.

Group net profit was up to $41.9 million in the six months to 31 December, 2016, compared to $38.6 million a year ago, while revenue was up 2.8 per cent to $125.3 million. The port said it expected earnings for the 12 months to 30 June, 2017 would be at the upper end of its previous guidance of $79 million to $83 million, provided there were no significant changes to market conditions.

Mr Cairns said ship visits during a six-month period rose 4 per cent compared with the same period last year.

After completion of the dredging programme last September Maersk introduced a large vessel service, with Tauranga as its only New Zealand call. The 9500 TEU Aotea Maersk has been a regular visitor since October.

Meanwhile, Hamburg Sud last month announced it would introduce a big-ship peak-season weekly service next month, with Tauranga as its only New Zealand call. The largest cruise ship ever to visit the Bay of Plenty, the 4700-passenger, 1600-crew Ovation of the Seas has also made several visits to Tauranga.

These visits were possible because of a harbour dredging programme.

"With bigger ships calling at Tauranga, we are handling significantly larger volumes of cargo per shipment."

Chairman David Pilkington also mentioned the advantages of the port dredging.


"We have lifted revenue and earnings and moved record cargo volumes, including more than 510,000 20-foot equivalent unit containers," he said.

The expected handling of one million containers this financial year was the direct result of the infrastructure investment programme, he said.

Port of Tauranga - six months to December 31, 2016

--Net profit: up 8.5% to $41.9 million

-Revenue: up 2.8% to $125.3 million

-Total trade: Up 8% from 10.1 million tonnes to 11.0 million tonnes

-Container volumes: Up 8% to 510,074 TEUs

-Interim dividend: five cents per share, up 8.7%.

Log exports rebound

Log exports from Tauranga rebounded in the first half from the same period last year, increasing by 21 per cent to nearly three million tonnes. Other forest products had mixed results, with pulp volumes up by 3 per cent to 291,000 tonnes, but paper products down eight per cent to 273,000 tonnes.

Dairy exports increased 4 per cent to 1.08 million tonnes, kiwifruit volumes increased 16 per cent to about 477,000 tonnes, and apples increased by 6 per cent. Oil imports increased 10 per cent, fertiliser imports increased 10 per cent and there was steady growth in other import categories, such as dry chemicals, bulk liquids, cement and salt.

However, exports of some products dropped, with frozen meat down by 25 per cent and onions by 23 per cent.

Food supplement imports for the dairy industry fell 10 per cent, while grain volumes fell close to 20 per cent.

Port of Tauranga's traffic from inland hubs has continued to grow, with the numbers of containers transferred by rail between Tauranga and the MetroPort facility in Auckland increasing 20 per cent compared with the first half of the previous financial year.