Why Auckland Port Suffering Congestion in Christmas Lead-Up
Freight passing through the Auckland port is suffering severe congestion in the lead-up to Christmas.
A Ports of Auckland union executive says the port’s move to an automated system is the root cause of its failure to cope with increasing volumes after weeks of industrial action in Sydney disrupted supply lines.
However, the port disputes that.
The “severe congestion”, which resulted in a surge of import and export cargo volumes diverted through the Port of Tauranga, has also overwhelmed rail links between Tauranga and Auckland in recent days.
A Port of Tauranga spokesperson said there was so much export cargo diverted from Auckland to Tauranga that its dry port at Metroport Auckland was forced to institute ‘volume caps’ with KiwiRail to manage rail traffic and help clear the backlog.
But Maritime Union Auckland secretary Russell Mayn said the issue went deeper than just unusual container volumes.
“It’s not about go-slows or anything like that. It’s just more congestion because there aren’t enough stevedores.”
He said for workers ‘on the ground’ the transition to automated straddle carriers to load and unload trucks and operate the container yard had left a “major hole” operationally.
“So it’s a domino effect, with not enough staff to manage while the port was at ‘partial automation’. The automation systems are taking up real estate.
I mean we’ve had cranes sitting at the end of the wharf for three years and blue automated straddle carriers ‘doing nothing’.”
Mayn said that had resulted in long hours by stevedores employed by the Ports, which was difficult given the often physical demands of the job.
The criticism comes as port owner Auckland Council launches an independent review into the port’s health and safety record, to be led by Construction Health and Safety NZ chair Roger McRae.
That follows the death of a stevedore after being crushed by a container – the port’s third death in two years.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the scope of the review – which will be paid for by POAL – is wide ranging, including culture and engagement, resourcing, training methods, supervision, governance and leadership.
Ports of Auckland spokesperson Matt Ball said the investigation had not had any impact on the current logistics challenges at the port.
“It’s not just us, it’s the whole supply chain,” he said.
But Mayn, who has been working on the wharves for 47 years, said there were definitely “question marks” around the new systems.
“This used to be a viable port. If I were the council, I’d want to know just how much I’m paying for this ‘insanity.’
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