Port Otago's dredge New Era working off Harwood earlier
this week. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Port Otago is celebrating its ability to remain the
country's deepest container port, but has no timetable to begin
any major dredging operations.
Its Next Generation Project, which sparked concerns of the
effects on the coast of dumping spoil 6km out at sea, gives
Port Otago a 25-year window to deepen its channel, should
larger container vessels of up to 8000 TEU (20ft equivalent
containers) come to Port Chalmers.
While granted consents from the Otago Regional Council (ORC),
to deepen its channel between Port Chalmers and Taiaroa Head
from the present 13m to 15m and remove 7.2 million cubic
metres of spoil, it could be up to five years before any
removal started, chief executive Geoff Plunket said.
''We have five years to start [major dredging], then 20 years
to use the whole consent,'' Mr Plunket said, highlighting
that commercial demand by shippers would be the main driver
for any major dredging.
Earlier this month, conditions of the ORC original consents
were appealed before an Environment Court judge, but most
issues raised by a community group and fisheries' interest
representatives were resolved before the end of the week-long
hearing in Dunedin.
Mr Plunket estimated yesterday that half of the channel,
through past channel maintenance programmes, was already
around 14m in depth, and increasing the remainder could be
done ''incrementally, under the regular maintenance
''The first step would be to dredge to 14m, but there is no
start date for this,'' Mr Plunket said.
Separately, three-year resource consents for Port Otago to
operate its maintenance dredging programme are being applied
for through the ORC at present, with six submissions from
surfing interests concerned that nearby surf breaks could be
adversely affected, Mr Plunket said. He was ''hopeful of
addressing those [surfers'] concerns'', but said it was
likely an ORC hearing would be held next year.
He believed that after the next round of consent applications
for dredging in about two years, they could all be
integrated. Under the regular maintenance programme, Mr
Plunket said existing coastal spoil dumps would continue to
be used, at Hayward Point, Aramoana and the Spit, while the
offshore designated dump spot, 6km from Taiaroa Head, would
be used only for a ''big dredge'' operation, he said.
Port Otago chairman Dave Faulkner described the Environment
Court outcome as a ''landmark decision'', making Port Otago
the first port company in the country to have a
fully-consented project to deepen its channel.
''This is substantially cheaper than any other port in the
country,'' Mr Faulkner said.
Large shipping companies, caught out by an oversupply of
vessels and shrinking cargo volumes during the global
financial crisis, countered their massive financial losses at
the time by using larger container ships and cancelled calls
to smaller ports around the world.
Mr Faulkner said the global trend towards bigger ships had
already started to affect New Zealand, with several of this
country's largest exporters and other interest groups calling
for New Zealand ports to prepare for the arrival of larger
Mr Faulkner said the court decision ranked alongside other
historic events for Port Chalmers, including the first frozen
meat export aboard the
Dunedin in 1882 and Port Chalmers' opening as a container
terminal in 1977.
''Having the ability to increase this [channel depth] to 15m
means that Port Otago's board and management could respond
rapidly to changing shipping needs whenever they arose,'' Mr
Port Otago has the added advantage of owning its own dredging
fleet, so the first stage can be done at any time and, with
more than 50% of the existing channel already at 14m, the
cost of completing the first stage is projected to be between
$5 million to $10 million. The project would benefit South
Island ship users, as accommodating larger vessels would
ensure that exporters and importers were not penalised by
increased costs in their international supply chain, such as
additional inland freight or transhipping costs, Mr Faulkner
• Resource consents allow: Deepen, widen, and maintain lower
harbour channel, ship-swing area and berths at Port Chalmers
to allow passage of larger ships.
• Dispose of the dredge spoil to sea.
• Extend the multi-purpose wharf, build a new fishing jetty
at Port Chalmers.