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The $4.25million intermodal freight centre (IFC), on a 0.80ha site next to the KiwiRail container transfer yard, was officially opened by Transport Minister Simon Bridges on Friday.
Speaking at a function attended by about 70 guests, South Port chief executive Mark O’Connor said the IFC was South Port’s first permanent operating footprint in the Invercargill CBD area but would be the forerunner to other freight efficiency activities away from Bluff. He did not give details of what those activities might be.
In his speech, KiwiRail commercial manager Alan Piper said KiwiRail would be working in partnership with South Port on "phase two" of IFC freight plans "to help Southland companies get a competitive advantage".
Mr Bridges said the IFC and similar centres around the country helped the road, rail and shipping transport modes play to their success.
"We are going to see fewer truck movements as a result of this and more sharing of the load across the entire transport sector."
The IFC comprises a 4000sq m warehouse, an outdoor area, and a dedicated wash pad area.
It has been operating since July.
Mr O’Connor said the gestation period for the project was about five years and had hinged on finding and buying land in an appropriate location.
Having a logistical presence close to the railhead was vital to take costs out of the freight supply chain, he said.
At present the IFC had an "import cargo emphasis" he said, with containers filled mainly with fertiliser and farm nutrient products being unloaded there and transferred to trucks.
"In the case of Bluff imports, this avoids a trip of roughly one hour by road, which has been well received by both importers and transport operators. In addition, it provides an empty box [container] which can be prepared and made available for export use in a much more accessible location."
Over time, export packing options would also be offered at the IFC, he said.
South Port’s major shareholder is Environment Southland.
The company broke records during the 2015-16 years, exceeding $8million in net earnings and breaking the three million-tonne threshold for cargo activity for the first time.
Cargo activity has almost doubled in the past seven years.