Napier Port reported another record profit this year as the amount of cargo handled also hit a record.
Net profit lifted 5.4 per cent to $17.6 million in the year ended September 30 on a 5 .8 per cent increase in revenue to $91.7m, its annual report shows.
The port handled a record 5.1 million tonnes of cargo, with log exports lifting 35 per cent to a record 2.2 million tonnes. A total of 266,006 containers or twenty-foot equivalent units passed through the port's container terminal, and the port's onsite packing operation handled a record 51,126 TEU containers.
Apple exports exceeded 23,000 TEU containers for the first time, while fertiliser, cement and oil imports remained relatively steady.
"We saw an extraordinary amount of cargo come through Napier Port the previous financial year as a result of earthquake damage to Wellington's port. To not only match that figure this year, but to beat it by more than 320,000 tonnes, really shows the pace of growth in Hawke's Bay," chief executive Todd Dawson said.
He said the port is also handling larger ships and a growing cruise industry.
A total of 684 ships called at Napier this year, including 57 cruise ships, he said. Cruise tourism in the region is flourishing, with a record 103,000 passengers visiting Napier shores in the 2017-2018 cruise season. Figures from Statistics New Zealand figures show those cruise passengers spent $23m on credit cards alone.
The port paid $10m in dividends to the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company.
Looking ahead, Dawson said one of the main challenges is how to deal with congestion on the water.
In November, Napier Port was granted resource consent to build a sixth wharf, which will service the container terminal and free up other wharves for the growing log and general cargo trade. It will also allow the cruise ships Napier Port currently turns away to visit the region and means the port can accommodate larger vessels that are too big for its current facilities.
Napier Port, wholly-owned by the regional council, is the fourth-largest container operation in the country. It expects to invest about $350m during the next decade to cater for the region's growing log, timber and apple exports.
The council can't afford to fund that and meet its environmental obligations and has proposed selling up to 45 per cent of the business through a share offer in order to free up capital and diversify the council's investment base. A decision on that is due tomorrow.
If the sale proceeds it will be the first new opportunity public investors will have had to buy shares in a port company since Christchurch City Council delisted Lyttelton in November 2014.