CYCLONE Gabrielle is disrupting shipping and port operations in New Zealand.

The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency on Tuesday morning (14 February) as the ex-tropical cyclone lashes the North Island with heavy rain, flooding and gale force winds.

New Zealand’s port community had been bracing for the approaching cyclone since late last week and began to announce closures over the weekend.

Ports of Auckland

In an operational update on Friday (10 February), Ports of Auckland said it was “planning for the worst” and warned it may suspend shipping movements and operations. Suspensions took effect on Saturday.

“This cyclone may affect port operations until Wednesday morning,” Ports of Auckland said on Friday.

“Please be patient with us as there will be on-going congestion as we’re currently experiencing, and as we recover from this lost time.”

In an advisory notice on Monday (13 February) Maersk said its teams were working with affected terminals, deports and transport service providers in New Zealand as the situation developed.

According to the advisory, Ports of Auckland planned to vacate all vessels alongside the berths and would not berth any others until it was deemed safe to do so.

Neptune Pacific Direct Line in an operational update said operations at Ports of Auckland remained suspended (as of Tuesday 14 February) and were expected to return at 0700 on Wednesday 15 February.

Ports of Auckland confirmed in a social media post on Tuesday morning it was starting limited operations in preparation for Wednesday morning.

“The worst of Cyclone Gabrielle has now passed Auckland” it said in the post.

“High wind continues to be a factor this morning but will likely reduce later today.”


Northport announced on Monday the port would be closed until 0700 Wednesday morning (15 February) at the earliest. It said all port users supported the decision.

“The Northland harbourmaster closed Whangārei harbour to all commercial shipping [on Sunday] from 0900 to late Tuesday afternoon,” Northport said.

“All port operations were cancelled at that time and only a skeleton crew remain at the port to monitor infrastructure and storm water levels.”

The port said the facility was generally “holding up well” in the gale conditions, but its Wave Rider buoys (important to the port’s dynamic under keel clearance system) lost their moorings in the swell.

“They are in the process of being recovered,” Northport said.

“This will limit deep draft vessel transit until at least one of the buoys can be repositioned – this will be late Tuesday or Wednesday morning at the earliest.”

Northport said much of the surrounding Northland region was without power, but the port had maintained power from the grid and has an emergency generator capacity.

Napier Port

Napier Port closed its Eastern Gate on Monday evening (13 February) and confirmed all vessels had vacated berths ahead of the heavy swell.

“Very heavy swell is forecast to reach Napier Port later today and this evening,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This may present serious risk to operations along the roadway leading to the main log yard.”

And in a shipping communication released Monday, Napier Port said it would be unable to work ships as usual until Wednesday morning at the latest.

The advisory from Maersk indicated Napier Port would remain closed until 2359 on Wednesday.

Port of Tauranga

Maersk said in its advisory on Monday that vessels were to depart from the Tauranga anchorage to sea, where they would remain until they could return safely.

The operations update from Neptune Pacific Direct Line indicates port operations at Tauranga resumed at 0700 on Tuesday.

An article from Reuters on Tuesday morning suggests trains and ferry services have been disrupted throughout the rest of the North Island.

It said Air New Zealand has cancelled 509 flights, but expected flights to resume on later in the day.

Reuters also said police were searching a person who was on board a boat near Great Barrier Island on Tuesday morning after responding to reports the boat was in distress.