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As part of a $30 million expansion at Northland's Marsden Point, work will start this year on a third shipping berth.

Port company Northport hopes the new berth will be ready by early 2007. Marsden Point would fully replace the old port at Whangarei, which is seriously restricted by silting.

Northport chief executive Ken Crean said the new berth would also provide for future business growth.

New shipping lines, unable to stop off in Northland because of the shallow draught at Whangarei, would be able to use Marsden Point.

The new site also has room for a container crane, but no decision has been made to install one.

"These berths are multi-purpose berths. They can effectively handle anything if someone needs to put a container crane along in future.

"In the meantime, they can handle any product, any time," said Crean.

Fletcher Construction is the primary contractor for the job, which includes 180m of new wharf and about 3ha of land reclamation.

New Zealand Refining, which owns the Marsden Point oil refinery, also has jetties at the site.

Northport runs operations at the Port of Whangarei and Marsden Point. It is owned by the Port of Tauranga and Northland Port Corporation in a 50-50 joint venture.

The corporation is, in turn, mostly owned by the Northland Regional Council (52 per cent) and Ports of Auckland (19.9 per cent).

Ports of Auckland bought its stake from the council for $24 million late last year.