Port of Tauranga has announced new measures to prioritise urgent imported cargo.

The measures allow importers to identify cargo for essential services before it arrives in New Zealand, so it is handled and transported first, during the national lockdown.

"We take our role as an essential service very seriously and our focus is to ensure vital food, medical and other supplies can keep moving," the post's chief executive Mark Cairns said, in a written press release this afternoon.

"We also understand the stresses and strains on people and organisations trying to deal with the current situation, which has seen shipping delays, cancellations and other disruptions.

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"We need the support and co-operation of importers and exports to help us manage the flow of cargo and avoid blocking the path of essential food, medicine, equipment and other supplies."

Port of Tauranga in 2019. Photo / File
Port of Tauranga in 2019. Photo / File

Deadlines for dwell charges [for time spent at the port without moving] for priority cargo had been extended to relieve import customers and ensure cargo was collected promptly.

Non-essential cargo may be temporarily stored on or off-site until it could be collected by truck or transferred by rail to MetroPort Auckland.

Non-essential cargo would avoid dwell charges until April 26, 2020, (apart for one-off handling charges and power charges for refrigerated containers).

Port of Tauranga had introduced "extensive measures" to protect its staff and their health, to "maintain vital operations".

They included the separation of workgroups, enhanced cleaning regimens and protective equipment for frontline staff such as marine pilots.

Strict border controls were in place.

All international crew shore leave was prohibited and crew members must avoid close contact with port workers.

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A summary of the measures being taken is available on the port's website.

Meanwhile, Port of Tauranga also withdrew its earnings guidance for the year to June 30
2020 due to the impact of Government measures against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cairns said the company remained in a strong position to weather the impact of the pandemic.

"We comfortably paid our interim dividend of $40.8 million on March 20 2020. We have a strong balance sheet and continuing strong operating cash flows from our diversified business.

"Many of our major exports, including meat, dairy products and kiwifruit, are classified as essential cargoes. Imports of oil products, food and medical supplies are also essential cargoes."

"However, log and other forestry product exports will be significantly impacted as they are currently considered a non-essential cargo," he said.

"Under the current circumstances, the Port of Tauranga Board considers it prudent to suspend profit guidance for the time being."

Port of Tauranga and New Zealand's largest containerised freight exporter, Kotahi, have also announced an extension to their long-term volume commitment agreement by seven years through to mid-2031.

Kotahi manages freight on behalf of more than 40 of New Zealand's importers and exporters, including its shareholders Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms.

Cairns said the collaboration gave the port the "confidence" to invest further in expanding its container terminal.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website