SOUTH Port in New Zealand reported an 8.7% decrease in after-tax profit for the 2022-23 financial year.

The port in the South Island town of Bluff reported after-tax profit of NZ$11.71 million, which is ahead of the guidance provided in the company’s 2023 interim report (NZ$11.1 million to NZ$11.6 million).

Normalised profit was NZ$11.50 million (2022: NZ$11.16 million), a 3.1% increase on last year and a record for South Port.

South Port chair Rex Chapman said: “This is an excellent result, taking into consideration the decrease in cargo volumes”.

Chief executive Nigel Gear noted that trade results have been mixed in the second half.

“A number of bulk cargo volumes were down, led by decreases in fertiliser, stock food, and woodchip volumes imported and exported through South Port,” he said.

These decreases were balanced out by a 9% increase in logs, at 720,000 tonnes (2022: 659,000 tonnes).

Container volumes handled at Bluff totalled 41,700 TEU (FY22: 44,000 TEU).

The port company said its decrease in container throughput partly reflects the continued disruption to calls by MSC’s Capricorn container service with 38 calls recorded for FY23 (FY22: 35 calls). This is still significantly down from pre-Covid levels of 52 calls per annum.

Overall, this has resulted in a 2% decrease in cargoes being shipped through the Port at 3.48 million tonnes (2022: 3.55 million tonnes).

The marine division has had a productive year, with a 14% increase in activity at 349 vessel calls for the Port (2022: 305 calls). This was reflected in a 26% increase in small vessels, and an 11% increase in large vessels calling at Bluff.

Stage one of Mercury Energy’s Kaiwera Downs wind farm, 10 turbines equivalent to an output of 40 megawatts, was recently discharged at the port.

The equipment was stored on the Island Harbour before being transported to the site over a period of six weeks. A decision on the second stage is expected in the coming 12 months.

Contact Energy’s proposed development of a Southland wind farm east of Wyndham was accepted for fast-track consenting process and if consent is granted, has the potential to produce up to 300MW from 50 turbines.

The port completed several infrastructure projects during the year.

South Port completed a four-year project to install impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP) on the Island Harbour access bridge.

The company also completed construction of the Town Wharf fuel berth accessway, pipeline corridor, and discharge platform.

A17,000-square-metre log yard hardstand at South Rail was completed and opened in October 2022.

On 31 August 2022, Environment Southland granted South Port resource consent for project Kia Whakaū. The removal of fragmented rock to achieve a draft of 9.7 metres CD in the harbour entrance channel is almost completed.

The company said completion of the Kia Whakaū project will provide additional capacity to load more cargo on vessels calling at the port, increase efficiencies, and provide a safer transit through the entrance channel.

Looking forward, Mr Chapman said there is uncertainty over a number of cargoes in the current year.

“The log market and farming sector are both going through a difficult period due to lower export prices and high interest rates,” he said.

“This is likely to impact log exports and expenditure on the farm, which will have a flow-on effect for the use of fertiliser and stock feed.”