THE PORT of Tauranga has reported an increase in profits for the first six months of the 2022 financial year as it deals with ongoing cargo volume volatility.

Group net profit after tax for the port located on New Zealand’s north island, was $56.3 million in the six months to 31 December 2021. This represented a 15.6% Increase on the same period the previous year, as cargo volumes remained steady at 13.0 million tonnes.

Container numbers increased 1.5% in volume to 622,271 TEU.

During the six month period, imports increased 2.7% to 5.0 million tonnes and exports decreased 2.0% to 8.0 million tonnes.

Log exports decreased 6.1% to nearly 3.1 million tonnes, direct dairy exports increased 2.3% and direct kiwifruit exports increased 16.0%.

Port of Tauranga chair, David Pilkington, said the mid-year financial results reflected the resilience offered by the port’s diverse portfolio of cargoes and varied income streams, as well as changes to container mix.

“We are still experiencing disruption across the supply chain and this will be exacerbated by the Omicron outbreak,” Mr Pilkington said.

“With the support of our service providers and business partners, we have managed to keep congestion to a minimum and keep cargo moving through this challenging period.

“Unreliable shipping schedules, constrained capacity in the system and labour shortages continue to be commonplace.”

Mr Pilkington said the current supply chain challenges made it even more important to build future resilience for New Zealand. Port of Tauranga has applied for resource consent to increase capacity by extending its container berths to the south of the existing wharves.

Detailed planning and consultation for the project began in 2019.

“It was disappointing that the project was declined for the government’s shovel-ready and fast-track resource consent programs in 2020 and 2021 respectively, despite no funding being sought from government,” Mr Pilkington said.

“Subsequently, we have sought direct referral to the Environment Court. The case is now waiting for a court date.”

Port of Tauranga chief executive, Leonard Sampson, said the company continued to grapple with the global supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19, while preparing for possible operational disruption should the Omicron outbreak spread in the Bay of Plenty.

He said shippers were playing their part in helping the port avoid the extensive delays experienced in late 2020.

“Importers and exporters have been very co-operative in helping us improve terminal productivity by ensuring the terminal is not congested by cargo in storage for excessive periods,” Mr Sampson said.

“Congestion during the traditionally busy month of December was considerably less than in 2020, in part as KiwiRail were able to reinstate the number of MetroPort trains to 92 per week from 72 the previous year.”

The outlook for the second half of the year is uncertain, as supply chain remains vulnerable and the full effects of the Omicron outbreak are unknown.

“We believe we have done everything we can to prepare for the inevitable disruption of a large COVID outbreak. However, the upheaval of widespread illness and employee isolation requirements is being felt worldwide, not just in New Zealand,” Mr Sampson said.

Based on the first half performance, full year earnings are expected to be in the range of $103 million to $110 million (compared with $102.4 million in the 2021 financial year).