Northport to Auckland Christmas convoy thins out with most containers picked up

The bulk of Christmas containers at Northport have now been dispatched by truck south, with 280 boxes still to be shifted from the Northland gateway’s wharves.

Of these, 49 containers are on hold by Customs and/or the Ministry for Primary Industries, port spokesman Peter Heath said.

As at midnight Thursday, 866 containers had been dispatched on to trucks.

Coastal shipping has also been used to move containers south as Northport handled its biggest container ship visitor yet. Around 1170 boxes were unloaded.

The port accepted the Constantinos P in a bid to get goods from China and North Asia to Auckland and south in time for Christmas, as Ports of Auckland’s ship congestion issues continue.The Constantinos P would not have been unloaded at its scheduled Auckland port stopover until at least December 22.

Heath said 26 containers had been transhipped to Auckland.

“As we’ve said repeatedly and consistently, the timeline for container clearance from Northport depends entirely on how many, and how frequently, trucks turn up to collect them. There are no delays at our end. As containers move out of the yard others are becoming more readily accessible and load times are dropping.”

Northport is a small container port with limited resources compared to the primary ports of Tauranga and Auckland. A big container ship stretched its unloading capability over several days last week, as was well-signalled, but it has been the trucking side of the mission that has been problematic.

While it was always going to be challenging for trucks – it was estimated by transport officials 800 trucks would be needed – to make the trek to Northport and back to Auckland, it was truck roadworthiness that turned out to be more of an issue than the fragile road.

Almost one in five trucks failed safety checks in the first three days of the Christmas convoy south.

Serious faults, including bald tyres and inadequate braking, forced 11 trucks off the road, after being inspected by police at a checkpoint on SH1 at Uretiti, south of Whangarei.

Between Friday last week and Sunday, 534 trucks were inspected, of which 96 or 18 per cent failed safety checks and had to be taken off the road.

Police said some truckies were caught bypassing the checkpoint by driving rural roads and their truck-and-trailer units were found to have the most safety issues.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and WorkSafe are also monitoring the truck movements between Northport and Auckland.

Congestion and unloading delays continue at Ports of Auckland, the country’s main gateway for imports.

The Auckland Council-owned port in its latest operational update says berth windows and vessel schedules are “severely degraded”. Labour supply is also classed as degraded with delays. Container and breakbulk road services are rated severely degraded.

Northport at Marsden Point is a natural deepwater port. It’s a joint venture between NZX-listed Port of Tauranga and Marsden Maritime Holdings, which has Ports of Auckland as a 20 per cent stakeholder.

Heath said no conclusions had yet been reached in the port’s review of the Constantinos P operation. The port had yet to decide whether to accept more requests from shipping lines to call there because of the ongoing shipping congestion.

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