A Napier Port commercial training scheme is drawing praise from the Government for the way it is improving safety levels across New Zealand - and boosting the Fijian economy.

About two years after Napier Port bought a $750,000-crane simulator, the company is realising more of the international applications a scheme that has led to a mutually beneficial relationship with Fiji Ports.

Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today during a relationship-building visit from Napier Port representatives, Fiji Ports chief executive Hasthika Dela said the company had been inspired by the way Napier Port did things.

"The partnership has increased productivity, and that's a direct benefit to the economy."


Mr Dela said the productivity increase, combined with improved safety, had also helped Fiji boost its reputation with shipping companies.

While the crane drivers who took part were already of a good standard the training received in Napier helped to cut out some of the "little mistakes" they might have made.

"Those were identified and properly addressed. It was very important for us that a third party in the industry, at a different level, could assess these drivers and then provide feedback.

"It actually made a huge difference when these operators came back. Their productivity has gone up but also the damages that we were encountering previously have reduced. There are huge benefits to us."

It was intended that the relationship would be a long-term one, he said.

"It's not commercially binding, we exchange ideas and we even share our problems and how to solve them."

Speaking from Fiji, Napier Port culture and capability manager Viv Bull said Napier Port gained a lot from the whole relationship - and so did the Fijian community in Hawke's Bay.

"Obviously we are over here in Fiji at the moment along with our senior crane operator and our operations improvement manager.

"This is our third visit here, our first visit was about meeting people and getting an understanding of the environment. That's great for us to see another port and how it's operating."

Training involved a "comprehensive" programme that also involved administrative staff as well as crane operators.

"It's a wrap-around programme, they are immersed in our environment. It's not just technical training the crane operators are getting in the simulator, or just the technical training the administrative people learning our systems - they are immersed in our culture and how we do things."

Those lessons could then be taken back to Fiji.

The Fijian community in Hawke's Bay also benefited from the relationship.

"Every group that has been over have also got out and been a part of that community as well. So I think that's a very much wider link for the Hawke's Bay and Fiji relationship."

While it had always been the plan to ensure a "level of commercialisation" with the simulator, the Fijian relationship had thrown up other, unexpected benefits.

"One thing we didn't know is that not only is the simulator very good at training but it's exceptionally good at recruitment - assessing the potential of people and who will make a good crane operator."

That was of "huge value". "If you make a mistake in the real world, it's a very expensive mistake to make, so we can select people who have the potential to operate a crane and also have the right attitude."

Auckland Port has a simulator but the Napier one is the only other in New Zealand.
Both South Port and Nelson port have sent operators to be assessed in the Napier Port simulator.

The port was now considering establishing similar relationships with other overseas ports.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway praised the port's role in improving safety.

"I applaud good New Zealand businesses that take a leadership role in health and safety, and can share their knowledge and good practices with local and international companies alike."