Machine automation at Auckland's port would help to almost double its capacity without the need for further land reclamation, according to Ports of Auckland's draft masterplan.

The port company today revealed its 30-year plan for the 77ha section on the Waitemata Harbour, which would remove 1.275ha of old wharf and replace it with 1.25ha of new wharf.

As well as creating a five-storey carparking building topped with a 1ha public park, Ports of Auckland intends to drastically increase its capacity and efficiency by automating its systems.

According to the draft report, the Fergusson Container Terminal - the busiest in the country - would begin using automated straddle carriers to unload trucks and to operate the container yard by 2019.

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New automated straddle carriers would help to nearly double Auckland port's capacity. Photo / supplied
New automated straddle carriers would help to nearly double Auckland port's capacity. Photo / supplied

The current 13m carriers, which can stack containers up to three high, would be replaced by 15.8m automated carriers able to stack four containers. These would be guided by high-tech locator "orbs" developed by Australian company Locata Corporation.

The basketball-sized antennae would be fitted to the straddle carriers, enabling them to carry out complex tasks without being manned. If they need refuelling or repairs they would be able to report to port staff and, if granted approval, take themselves to the workshop.

The VRay multi-element antenna, or
The VRay multi-element antenna, or "orb" will enable straddle carriers at Auckland's port to carry out complex tasks such as taking themselves to be repaired without human guidance. Photo / supplied

The automated straddles will require a bigger engineering workshop and work is already under way on a temporary building before the planned construction of a permanent facility within five years.

The company also proposes automating its rail grid to make it faster and easier to move containers, in line with its plan to increase its rail usage from 12 to 30 per cent.

A Ports of Auckland spokesman said automation could potentially result in the dissolving of 50 roles at the port, but it was too early to be certain of the number.

The report says that automation would reduce emissions, noise and light pollution; increase capacity without the need for land reclamation; keep costs down; and deliver higher dividends for Auckland Council.

The company has also ordered three new container cranes for Fergusson North Wharf, which the report says can lift up to four containers at a time, boosting productivity and making more efficient use of available land.

The cranes, which are expected to be delivered in August next year, will also be fitted with a 26-kilowatt solar panel as Ports of Auckland seeks to achieve its net-positive energy goal.

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The draft plan also includes a 13m extension at the end of Bledisloe Wharf while cutting back on the wharf's eastern side; the removal of Marsden Wharf; building a new head office at the intersection of The Strand and Quay St/Tamaki Drive; removing Shed51; deepening the shipping channel to accommodate larger vessels; and developing a network of freight hubs at other key North Island locations.

How Herald readers have reacted to the draft masterplan
Shaun Taylor: There is nothing Ports of Auckland can do to make their business on the prime waterfront of Auckland look anything other than an eyesore. Their new vision does little to improve the fact it is taking up land far too valuable for the purpose of its current use. Yes it is a massive contributor to the national economy but let it do that in another location.

Simon Williams: As a lifelong resident and ratepayer of 30 years, I'm very keen to keep Auckland's port where it is as a vibrant, profitable business. I would not have too much of a problem with the used car imports going north or elsewhere so long as it did not impact on the port's profitability. What kind of major city does not have a functioning port and cargo handling facility? Auckland is not a shop front, it's a functioning city that needs its commercial port functions to continue.


Frank: What is needed is for the port to be moved not readjusted. The commercial cargo port will move to either Northland or Firth of Thames linking with an inland port in Auckland. These plans are a rearguard action to retain the port in downtown. Aucklanders want their harbour back for recreational use and their port moved.

Jonathan Pirini: I see this plan as a response to suggestions to move the port to Whangarei. It addresses the long-held concerns of the port being an eyesore with the cars but, unfortunately, it will still be a terrible view-spoiler. The idea of a water park on the roof of a parking building is nothing but a bribe to a public who care little for the port and the bureaucrats that run it.

John Gerty: I want no further port expansion at all and believe the existing port should be moved and the prime central land used for a better purpose.

Shaun McLean: The real issue for Auckland is not only the contentious wharf extension into the harbour but the resulting increase in container truck movements through a city barely able to cope with current traffic volumes.

Peter Hale: So instead of cars there is a series of five-storey buildings on Quay St? Who gets paid to come up with these idiot ideas??