Auckland Port’s Shock $20m Blow


Ports of Auckland, in the middle of an industrial dispute, has been shocked to be told today it’s lost a major shipping line service to Tauranga.

Maersk Line announced today it’s permanently shifting its Southern Star container shipping service from Auckland to Tauranga -which will be good for rail.
The Auckland port company will lose nearly $20m in revenue annually as well as 52 ship calls and 82,500 containers.

Maersk containers on Auckland's port

Port of Tauranga Chief Executive, Mark Cairns, said they’ve been working for some time to attract a new import ship call to Tauranga to better balance our MetroPort rail shuttle service to and from Auckland.

The shock news caused Auckland’s port company to postpone today’s mediation with the Maritime Union of New Zealand over its dispute.


Auckland Ports CEO Tony Gibson said the Southern Star was one of Auckland’s largest shipping services.

“Maersk have explained to us that the possibility of further industrial unrest has been central to their decision to shift the service to Tauranga. We had already warned the union that their strike action, during one of the busiest times in the shipping schedule, could cost Ports of Auckland a major customer and threaten jobs.”

“However, despite these warnings, a very fair offer on the table and a further offer of a paid stop work meeting, the union proceeded with its strike over last weekend, has already given notice of another strike this Friday, and is continuing to signal the possibility of further strikes, saying publicly it will do ‘whatever it takes.’”

The service loss is effective from this week’s vessel, the Euro Max voyage 126N, which will now call Tauranga on Saturday.

Maersk Line is the world’s largest container shipping line, operating in conjunction with Malaysia International Shipping Corporation Berhad . Its new port rotationwill be : Tanjung Pelapas (Malaysia), Singapore, Tauranga, Lyttelton, Port Chalmers, Tanjung Pelapas.

Port of Tauranga says it’s starting “a significant capital expenditure programme over the next few years to ensure that the Port continues to provide customers with world class levels of productivity.”

The Employers and Manufacturers Association says Auckland importers and exporters can ill afford the extra time and cost of freighting goods to and from Tauranga or via other alternatives.

Kim Campbell, EMA’s chief executive says shifting more containers to and from Tauranga “won’t help our carbon footprint with unnecessary rail freight and more trucks on the road. Longer lead times, and increased costs are not what we need. All businesses need to adopt more flexible work practices to retain their competitiveness, and the law must ensure managers are able to manage a business.

“Any suggestion that a union owns jobs in a workplace is completely outdated.”The longer term implications are that New Zealand’s reputation as a supplier of quality goods, and our credibility as an exporter are being put at risk. “It’s one thing to disrupt the supply of Christmas presents with all the pain that causes our retailers, and another entirely to cause permanent damage to a major part of New Zealand’s supply chain.

“We certainly hope this is not the beginning of an exodus of work from the ports of Auckland.”

Related Posts

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  2. Freight Report: Let Ports Decide
  3. Auckland Port Prepares For Huge Ships
  4. Coastal Shipping Fear Future With Rail Growth
  5. First Train To Wiri Port Tonight




  1. Chris says:

    Surely the risk of strike action is present at every port in New Zealand .. is this (strike action) just an excuse for carrying out a decision already in the works?

  2. ingolfson says:

    Nicely timed, union crushers. Of course we will never know whether the strike had ANYTHING to do with the decision (or are Taurangan dockworkers forbidden to strike?) but they can use this cudgel for a long time now.

    The argument that the strike was the decisive element seems pretty ridiculous to me. How much time was lost at POAL during the last 5-10 years due to strikes? I’d be surprised if it was more than, say 1%. Our unions are already totally weak, which is one of the reasons why our Prime Minister can try to position us as a “high quality, cheap wage” country, while in fact, our people move to Australia.

    Rant over.

  3. Patrick R says:

    Great, no need then to further subsidise truck companies servicing the port. In particular the absurd plans to drop $1 billion between the port and Grafton.

    In fact how about we pressure the port company to shift more and more of its land operations to its inland port by rail, thereby saving millions in road damage, upgrades, and death and injury. And other externalities.

    From the POAL website:
    ‘A rail exchange connecting the Wiri Freight Hub with the Waitemata seaport was completed in early 2010, creating significant supply chain efficiencies.

    For example, cargo owners will be able to drop off and pick up their cargo at Wiri instead of trucking it through central Auckland. Once fully operational, the initiative will save an estimated 100,000 truck movements per annum, creating significant community and environmental benefits.’

  4. Owen Thompson says:

    The decision to move had already been made behind closed doors. The strike simply provided an opportunity to kick the striking unionists.

  5. ejtma says:

    According to reports the port offered No redundancies, no contracting out, 2.5% pay rise and $200 signing bonus. The union wanted the same conditions as those on individual contracts, at the end of the day if non union members can negotiate better, fair play to them.

    The average wage of a stevedore is $91,480, 53% earned over $80,000 so there are some very well paid stevedores. They also get Southern Cross for them and their family, 15 days sick leave per annum, 5 weeks annual leave.

    Work practices embedded in the union culture means that the average stevedore only works 5.3 hours for each 8 hours paid.

    These idiots have gone on strike for something that they didn’t need. How many people on here would like a 2.5% pay rise this year, the guarantee of no redundancies, and an average pay of $91,000 per annum, 5 weeks leave, 15 days sick pay and southern cross membership. All they have done is cost themselves their jobs.

    I have little sympathy for them.

  6. Wasp says:

    Definitely smell a rat on that one.

  7. Owen Thompson says:

    Ejtma, where did you get your “facts” from?

  8. Jon R says:

    And this folks, is how business works.

    I would agree, the strike had little to nothing to do with this decision. I think berthage fees / turnaround time had more to do with it.

    Kiwirail should do well out of this new arrangement.

  9. Ejtma says:

    They have been reported in various places on the Internet, a google search shows the ports of Auckland own site, and various blogs reporting them as well. Take it for what it is worth, however, my own enquiries support the numbers.

  10. The Trickster says:

    Definitely smell a rat on this one.

    Ejtma - for what they do I can understand the money - I’ve heard it can be pretty damn dangerous work. I knew a woman who had previously managed one of the wharfs who had some rather gruesome stories of people getting crushed by those moving container cranes.

  11. rtc says:

    Clearly this announcement was timed to kick the striking staff in the gut but to be honest I’m more than happy for pressure to be taken off PoAL such that the ridiculous calls for massive motorways to the ports are quietened. Furthermore, perhaps this will slow their plans to fill in Auckland Harbour to expand their container storage areas.

  12. Jeff H says:

    This is not the first time a shipping schedule has been changed. One less ship per week is hardly likely to put POAL’s commercial viability under threat.

    It might not be a bad thing if the port company’s China-like grandiose, environment degradating expansion plans have some brakes put on them.

    Maersk’s decision is certainly a win for Regional development and resilient decentralisation that will benefit New Zealand.

  13. Patrick R says:

    Jeff H- exactly, this from yesterday’s herald:

    “Maersk’s Gulik said the service changes would not have a material impact on total transit times. Most of the export cargoes shipped out of Auckland originate from the Waikato-Bay of Plenty regions, where exporters’ transport and logistics operations “tend to be port-neutral,” he said.”

    Far better to ship bulk product from the regions to Tauranga than through Auckland…. And better for Auckland, now can POAL stop lobbying for more motorways please? There’s an old habit that’s proving hard to give up.

  14. Donald Neal says:

    “Regional development and resilient decentralisation” isn’t quite the story here, given the proportion of New Zealand’s exports which already travels between Hamilton’s Crawford Street terminal and the Port of Tauranga.

    But moving very large amounts of freight over a small number of routes is something rail is very good at. I look forward to seeing the plan to keep the extra container traffic between to and from Tauranga off roads. Preferably before another billion of public money goes on a new road over the Kaimais.

  15. Owen Thompson says:

    I doubt one less ship a week will spell the end of Ports of Auckland.

  16. Matt L says:

    Donald - It won’t be a $1b road over the Kaimai’s, the RTF has been pushing for a $2b tunnel under them.

  17. greenwelly says:

    @Jeff H
    One less ship per week is hardly likely to put POAL’s commercial viability under threat.

    While I agree it is unlikely to cause POAL to go under, It is not just the loss of one ship, it is a fairly big ship.

    According to the media it is a loss of 80k TEU a year, that is nearly 10% of Aucklands 800K total TEU.
    That is a fairly big loss…

  18. Anthony says:

    I bet Tauranga and Kiwirail will be very pleased by this news. It will definitely put more freight onto the trains and increasing the usage of the line.

  19. Ben says:

    Time to be devils advocate

    Nice for the Port of Tauranga and KR. How about Port of Tauranga pay 50% of the total cost of the third rail line between Papakura and its Southdown Base just north west of Westfield as well as 25 new crossovers between Pukekohe and Westfield so passenger trains can run around them and do “Wrong Line Running” more effectively then now.

    While I applaud PoT’s initiative to get the increase onto its Metro Port Trains I do not look forward to the increased phone calls from Train Control Wellington saying an MP ((Metro Port Freight Train) being pulled by those cursed new DL class locomotives) service crapped out on the main line - resulting in “here come delays and cancellations to passenger metro services”…

    Going to increase the load in the Southern Line, then give us the redundancy capacity on that piece of network. And this problem will only get worse when we move to 10minute metro frequencies and the EMUs.

    So while an understandable win on one side, there is a inconvenience on the other if we (Auckland) are not careful.

    BTW, we did have an MP service stall at Manurewa this morning just after the morning peak. Although that was to a gas leak in the cargo, it still caused enough headaches this morning to commuters…

  20. Owen Thompson says:

    Ben, thanks for the news update re the gas leak. I was told it was at the Manurewa shops.

  21. Roger says:

    Taking a wider view, this could be good for Aucklanders’ future access to the waterfront.

    Presumably Sydney had a downtown port in the past before operations moved to Botany Bay by the airport. Auckland should have a long term plan to transfer wharf operations elsewhere, even if it is Tauranga.

    I would like to see our waterfront hosting more people and less industry.

  22. Ben says:


    Ok, two different accounts there…

    <_< :P

    Ah well…

  23. Ben says:


    Last I heard there was a stirring (which is simmering away but will “boil up”) away amongst a few people myself included on the merits and consequences of either the following

    1) Status Quo at Port of Auckland

    2) Relocate entire port to a new site (I had an idea where)

    3) Close port entirely and have operations moved to Port of Tauranga and/or Marsden Point.

  24. Mark says:

    the other problem here is that POA is an import port and POT the export port. Eventually that’s too costly. While timber is different POT also export a lot of conatiners. The growth of processesed milk powder etc, but also Tauranga/Hamilton manufactured products will only increase.

    All of that hits POA long term viability - along with transport issues and the flow on costs to the wider area.

    Also in my view teh Auckland Plan has failed to grasp manufacturing properly. No real land use planning, and affordability is a key issue. It’s to focused on residential growth - often at the cost of small businesses - many of whom do actually export.

    Longer term we may see more manufacturing moving to Tauranga - cheaper business land, easy transport, 1/4 section lifestyle/ good schooling etc. Also Hamilton is another growing manufacturing/engineering base.

    There will be some interesting trends to watch over teh next few years - expecially with the new plan and affordability issues.

  25. Ben says:

    @Mark, right on the money (err bad pun) right there in your comment.

    I was thinking yesterday this:

    This Port business has me thinking. IF Auckland was to relocate the port, the area in black could be an option. However it would be the most ambitious project in NZ I have ever seen building a new port with infrastructure (road and rail on scratch). Flip side it could be one heck of an economy changer too if industry, commerce and residential opened up along the Papakura-Clevedon Road Corridor between Papakura and this possible port site. On the other-side, the biggest White Elephant since (can’t think of one that large).

  26. Matt says:

    One question I have, what’re the limitations associated with expanding Onehunga? I’m assuming there’d need to be some dredging to make the channel and port deeper, and there’s obviously the impact of it being a west coast port so less useful for coastal shipping (but not much of a problem for international shipping, since it’s just a course deviation), but is there something that makes it completely impossible to turn it into Auckland’s major port? It’s pretty much right next to the Southdown inland port, it’s got ready access to quite a bit of nearly-vacant land, the rail corridor to the south would be immediately adjacent which would connect it through to the Wiri hub…

  27. Patrick R says:

    Ben, no idea why we’ed want to do that; Tauranga and Marsden Point are clearly better alternatives.

    I don’t expect to see Auckland cease but there certainly seems little point in schlepping product from the Waikato, Naki, or BOP through AK instead of sending it to Tauranga. And using the rail network to bring to reverse cargo up to Southdown. Better to distribute form south AK than the waterfront and there is still capacity in the rail network I believe. And if this brings forward the need for a third line through South AK, all the better. Or even electrification of the North Island network…! All of this would be better than ruining a new bit of the coast and all its associated works, it’s not like the water is deep there either.

  28. Owen Thompson says:

    Matt, the trouble with Onehunga is the bar at the entrance to Manukau Harbour. Remember the Orpheus.

  29. Matt says:

    Owen, ah, yes, a bar would certainly do it. Though they can be dredged out, I suspect the work involved in keeping it gone would be cost-prohibitive.

    It’s a real shame that this happened under National’s watch, because it’ll be seen as justification for building a motorway under the Kaimais as requested by the RTF, instead of a justification for upgrading the rail link as a major priority.

  30. Ben says:

    Oh well, will have to wait and see what happens in this entire saga.


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