How is Wellington Port Recovering from the 2016 Earthquake?

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The Kaikoura earthquake struck on 14th November 2016. Two souls perished. Nine months later, New Zealand, including Wellington Port, is still recovering. We’re proud to have HGL Ltd (based in New Zealand) within our group operation, and believe it’s important to reflect on the recovery from this natural disaster that hit so close to home.

Our ocean logistics company was directly affected by the earthquake. Wellington’s CentrePort generated $2.5 billion GDP, running all year round, but the earthquake cut the amount of services available. Certain operations – like the ferry link between Wellington and Picton – were running a day after the earthquake. A cruise ship was able to drop off passengers within days, while the first commercial vessel unloaded only two days after the quake hit.

Unfortunately, container traffic wasn’t as fortunate. CentrePort ceased traffic because the earthquake had caused severe damage. Large gantry cranes were inoperable, so lower capacity cranes on ships were used instead. This allowed a reasonable flow of container traffic during the restoration of Wellington Port.

Green Shoots of Recovery

However, there is good news! Despite port officials saying more repair work must be done, the port is welcoming a 3000-capacity ship in September 2017. Before the earthquake, the port handled 4500-capacity ships, so further recovery is still necessary.

The larger capacity ships are greatly needed if Wellington Port is to recover from the $140 million loss caused by the quake. The earthquake damaged wharves, seawalls, underground services, buildings and shifted land by half a metre. No wonder land values dropped by $50 million.

New deals with major shipping giants like Maersk suggest Wellington Port’s value could return to its former glory once weekly large container traffic recommences, but there is still a long way to go. Derek Nind, CentrePort’s Chief Executive, expressed concern about a “chicken and egg” scenario once the cranes returned. Earlier this year, he said, “You’ve got to convince them [the shipping lines] that the cargo will be here in the right volume” but “you can’t get the cargo if you don’t have a ship.” Now that Maersk has shown belief in Wellington’s recovery, other shipping lines might soon follow suit.

Richard Davies, Director of HGL Ltd, has seen at first hand the challenges presented by the earthquake.

“Dealing with the after effects of such a serious natural disaster has been challenging on many fronts – costing both time and money to our clients.

With more shipping lines now operating to and from Wellington the situation is easing and can only benefit the industry and people of Wellington to help continue the important work of just getting on with day to day lives without the additional pressure of worrying about how their logistics will be handled.

The speed in which the port has been effectively rebuilt is a testament to the kiwi attitude of just getting it done, a mantra we at HGL Ltd also believe in!”

Almost a year after the Kaikoura earthquake, the aftershocks are finally settling down. Larger capacity cranes and ships are returning to action, container shipments will be more frequent, and the new deal with Maersk suggests Wellington Port is ready to reconnect and rebuild lucrative relationships with shipping companies. We’re confident in Wellington Port’s recovery process, however long it may be.

Feel free to get in touch with our New Zealand team if you would like to be kept up to date with progress at Wellington Port or are interested in finding out more about the solutions that we offer.