Monday, 7 May 2018

Claims of 22,000 TEU ships coming to NZ are rubbish (as are closing POAL in favour of Northport)

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:
  1. 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. 
  2. Closing POAL is not widely supported even though there has been a ginger group trying to stop the further development of it. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The four ports mentioned above being likely Auckland, Tauranga, Lyttelton and Otago. Hence Napier, Centreport, Nelson and Northport would not be international container terminals.
  8. Similarly the Shipping Council has had the research done, by international transport experts, to determine the size trend for container ships, they are credibly saying there is no likelihood of the Maersk Triple E or any similar size of container ship (mega-ship) coming to NZ in the foreseeable future.
  9. One of the biggest issues with mega ships is that the BCR actually drops even though they are cheaper to run per unit of freight, the reason is that very large sums have to be spent on infrastructure on the land to handle these very large volumes of containers that would be moving on and off such a ship.
  10. If this type of ship came to NZ it would reduce the frequency of shipping services, this is very material when handling perishable goods that we export overseas.
  11. Northport is no more of a deepwater port than say Port of Tauranga. There is no inherent advantage that Northport has for large ships than any of the other major ports. The nonsense statements that Northport is the only ship that can handle Triple E class ships is wrong firstly because they will never come here and secondly because contrary to claims, all the other ports can be dredged easily to the required depth.
  12. Northport does not have a deeper channel that is free from dredging compared to other major ports. It would still need to be dredged. There is a very small advantage over Tauranga in terms of channel length but that is inconsequential. There is some advantage over Auckland, Lyttelton and Otago which all have relatively long entrance channels that need to be dredged but in practice this will not amount to much.
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.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Ten reasons Auckland Transport has chosen light rail

Very pertinent as heavy rail fans are hoping they can still get their preferred line to the airport against a backlash from the public around the rest of NZ against a national fuel tax levy.

Ten reasons Auckland Transport has chosen light rail
1. Heavy rail won't address the lack of terminal space space in the CBD
2. Heavy rail provides less network resilience and operational constraints limit its capacity
3. Mass transit on the airport to city corridor via Dominion Road will supplement the rail network and make it more resilient
4. Light rail can provide a one-seat ride to the city centre, just like heavy rail
5. The Dominion Road corridor offers service benefits for the whole isthmus and addresses access issues at each end of the corridor
6. Heavy rail access from Manukau to airport via Puhinui could cause overloading and sharing with freight, for one extra station and no extra catchment
7. The issue of bus congestion in the city centre remains a problem under heavy rail
8. Light rail provides accessibility, connectivity, catchment, housing and development potential for the same investment
9. Light rail serves the main Auckland isthmus

Monday, 5 February 2018

Tunnel safety improvements

Since the Pike River mine disaster about eight years ago a lot more attention has been paid to the safety risks of operating trains through long tunnels. Some particular examples of changes have been the need to have fire suppression fitted to locomotives hauling trains through these tunnels, and extra locomotives required where necessary on the trains as well.

An example that shows just how much change has happened in recent years can be seen from the comparison with the report into a locomotive fire in the Rimutaka Tunnel in 1995. The locomotive was hauling a passenger excursion from Wellington to Featherston and the fire was discovered while uphill from Upper Hutt in the tunnel. The action taken was to keep running the engine until the summit in the tunnel was reached, then shut down the locomotive and coast downhill towards Featherston.

The TAIC report is number 95-104 and can be found here. What I found astonishing was that it was considered acceptable to have no radio comms in the tunnel. The second much more serious issue that was not even acknowledged by TAIC was the risk of the train running away through lack of braking capacity. With the locomotive shut down there is no dynamic braking available, and the air supply from the locomotive will eventually run out if the air brakes are used, as they must have been in this case. 

This is probably some of the reason why passenger trains through the Otira Tunnel now have to have a locomotive at the rear as well as at the front.