Ports of Auckland will go ahead with plans to partially automate its container terminal, which it expects will cut its workforce by about a tenth.

The Auckland port operator will shortly start work to install automated straddle carriers to load and unload trucks, which it says will increase capacity to between 1.6 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) and 1.7 million TEUs a year from the current 900,000 TEUs.

The project will take about three years to complete and result in about 50 stevedoring jobs being removed. The port operator employs about 500 staff, according to its website.

"The decision has been made after a year of consultation with staff and unions and detailed studies to prove the concept's safety and effectiveness," the company said in a statement. "As the project will take about three years to implement, we will endeavour to manage the reduction in roles through a combination of staff turnover, retirement, and retraining."


The city council-owned Ports of Auckland commissioned a scoping study on the benefits of automation in September last year and expected to make a decision on whether to proceed in early 2016. It declined to comment on the forecast savings and wouldn't quantify the capital expenditure involved.

The port operator will retain manually driven straddle carriers for work between the yard and ship-to-shore cranes.

Last week the port operator announced a tie-up with Napier Port to align their services as a way to cut costs for exporters and importers shifting their goods.

The Auckland and Napier ports had already embarked on a partnership in Palmerston North to build a regional freight hub as part of the larger city's island-wide network to manage growing volumes.