NZ’S PORT of Tauranga has seen lower overall cargo volumes and a 24.7% slide in net profits “amid challenging trading conditions” for the six months ended December 2023.

Releasing interim results today [23 February] PoT noted a fall in earnings due mostly to a decline in imported and transhipped container numbers, combined with a rise in operating costs, including rail charges.

Total trade volumes reduced 8.5% compared with the first half of the 2023 financial year, to 11.6 million tonnes (down from 12.7 million tonnes). Container numbers reduced 15.8% to 536,930 TEU, with transhipments falling 25.1% to 119,848 TEU. Direct fdairy exports reached 949,687 tonnes, a 4.4% decrease. However, log exports were boosted by 19.2% to 3.6 million tonnes by the early harvesting and export of cyclone-damaged trees.

Group net profit after tax was NZ$47.2 million, a 24.7% decrease from $62.7 million in 1H23, while subsidiary and joint venture company earnings decreased 34.2% to $4.8 million. Operating revenue was $200.0 million, a 5.6% decrease from $211.9 million in the first half of the 2023 financial year. Operating expenses increased 2.0% to $106.3 million.

PoT chair Julia Hoare said the first half of the financial year had seen a return to more normal operating conditions following a period of extreme supply chain congestion since late 2020.

“I’m pleased to report that since March 2023 we have managed to eliminate delays at the Tauranga Container Terminal with the gradual return to shipping schedule adherence after a long period of unreliability,” she said.

“Whilst we were impacted by delays caused by strike action in some Australian ports during the reporting period, service delivery to our customers continues to improve with productivity rates returning to pre-Covid levels.” Container productivity increased 5% to an average of 30.5 moves per hour.

Port of Tauranga Limited has received an interim decision from the Environment Court, provisionally granting resource consent for Stage 1 of its planned Sulphur Point wharf extension. Stage 1 involves constructing 285 metres of additional berth to the south of the port’s existing container berths, and associated dredging.

PoT chief executive, Leonard Sampson, said the port remained committed to working closely with tangata whenua and meeting the Court’s directions to provide environmental information, including additional kaimoana monitoring.

“The project is a critical piece of national infrastructure to meet the needs of NZ importers and exporters. Construction will commence as soon as resource consent is obtained,” he said.

As part of its decarbonisation strategy, Tauranga has taken delivery of a further four hybrid straddle carriers, which are approximately 25% more fuel efficient than the port’s diesel-electric models. The port’s oldest ship-to-shore container crane has been dismantled and the components for a new crane have just been delivered for assembly on site.

The outlook for the group for the second half of the 2024 financial year is expected to be mixed, PoT said. Domestic economic conditions remain challenging, and international conflicts are causing shipping delays and increases in freight costs.