A fellow called Ian Turner posting on the Campaign for Better Transport page is a fantasist who believes that Maersk Line are going to send their 22,000 TEU container ships to New Zealand in the next few years. According to Turner and a very few associates this means every other port in NZ except Northport will have to close down as none of them can be made deep enough to take these ships. They even believe Port of Auckland should close down so that it can be moved to Northport.
Some facts are in order here:
- There are no plans by Maersk Line or anyone else to bring 22,000 TEU container ships to New Zealand any time in the foreseeable future.
- Closing POAL is not widely supported even though there has been a ginger group trying to stop the further development of it.
- POAL has a consent to dredge their channel deeper to handle the size of ships that are likely to come to New Zealand over the next 20 years.
- Currently Port of Tauranga is the only port in NZ that can handle the 9000 TEU container ships, other ports are gearing up to equip themselves and/or dredge to receive ships of this size. This size of ship is the largest container vessel expected to visit NZ between now and roughly 2035.
- There will be incremental increase in ships visiting in NZ gradually over the future but there is in no way going to be a sudden leap from 9000 TEU to 22,000 TEU, it is just not going to happen that way.
- The NZ Shipping Council believes there need to be four container ports over the whole of NZ able to receive the largest vessels (9000 TEU), not one single port. This is very important for several reasons
- The international ships move a significant volume of domestic containers around the coastline of NZ as it is. This is important because moving this volume by sea is much cheaper than land based transport options, including rail.
- Landing containers closest to the urban centre they are going to is much more cost effective than railing them all from Northport to anywhere in NZ.
- Railing from Northport to Auckland would require huge expenditure on the North Auckland Line which is a sunk cost, whereas nothing needs to be spent on the blue highway or the port infrastructure to keep moving the containers by sea as they are now.
- Northport would need billions of dollars spent on it to equip it to handle large container ships. They are currently no better equipped than Port of Napier in this regard without a dedicated container wharf and proper cranes, they just have mobile cranes which are slower working than overhead cranes.
- By the time you get down to the South Island the cost of moving the containers would be much greater. At the moment there is already coastal shipping used to move containers by sea between Tauranga and Timaru. If you are going to use a ship to move the international containers it may as well be the ship that carried them on their overseas voyage.
The idea of closing POAL in favour of Northport is being championed by a few hardcore rail enthusiasts and most notably Winston Peters and others from NZ First. Since Winston Peters and Shane Jones have strong connections in the Northland region it is obvious they are playing pork barrel politics to try and buy votes. The entire proposal is ridiculous. It now looks like the government wants Ports of Auckland to stay where it is. They have committed to a ports study for the Upper North Island but that is all.