Feeling the impact of port delays

ANCHOR ME: Logships anchor in Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay earlier this week. Disruptive swells have caused significant delays at the port over the past month — affecting forestry and trucking companies alike — but the port has stressed “safety is our paramount concern” and that it underlined the need for a second berth. Picture by Liam Clayton

Log loading delays at Eastland Port because of persistent heavy seas over the past month have had an impact on the livelihood of some forestry workers.

A number of harvest crews have been stood down and log trucks have been parked up in what has been described as “a challenging time”.

For much of the last month, up to seven log ships have been at anchor in Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay, waiting to load cargo. Consequently the storage areas at the port and Matawhero have been at near capacity.

Loading has resumed in recent days.

“There has been a ship in port loading since Tuesday morning and we anticipate non-stop, continued loading through the weekend and into next week,” said Eastland Port general manager Andrew Gaddum.

“That will hopefully free up space in our log yard by early next week, thereby taking the pressure off those harvesting crews who have been unable to work.”

Forest Enterprises, which operates three highly mechanised harvest crews, has had to stand down the 30 people in its four contracting crews for almost a fortnight.

Regional manager Dan Fraser said they hoped to resume operations on Monday.

“The fixed operating costs for the contractors range up to $6000 a day, so this has been a loss for them, for our investors — for everyone really.

“We had no room in the forests where we have been working to stockpile logs without compromising safety,” Mr Fraser said.

“So the only choice was to shut down the crews.”

They lost a highly skilled operator this week as he was no longer prepared to stay with them because of the uncertainty around his work.

“We support the port’s move towards a second berth, 100 percent,” he said. “It is absolutely critical and cannot come soon enough.”

Ernslaw One regional manager Iain McInnes said they had not stood down crews. “But we are building up high stocks of logs in the forest. I believe it will take an uninterrupted month of loading at the port to get things back to a normal flow of logs and get stocks under control.”

Delays have also affected truck companies.

A F Thompson Contracting Ltd director Gus Thompson said five of their eight log trucks had been parked up and the other three were working out of town.

“It is what it is and we just have to do the best we can,” he said.

Williams and Wilshier and Pacific Haulage group manager Campbell Gilmour said for them it had only had “a slight impact so far”.

“We’re ticking over because we’ve got other options. Not all the wood we cart goes to the port. But if these delays keep going it definitely will affect us.”

Safety first approach

Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland said everyone was trying their best to improve the situation.

“No one wants people to be out of work in a situation like this, particularly when we have got such a strong forestry industry. But it is a challenging time.

“Forestry companies have been working with their harvest contractors to help them and their workers who are struggling financially.”

Ms Holland said some forestry workers had taken holidays while others had been given other work by their employers.

“We are between a log and hard place but we have got to get through, and I am sure we will,” she said.

In an open letter to the forestry industry, port general manager Andrew Gaddum explained the reason for the ship delays and sought industry support.

The unusual step follows a recent high frequency of disruptive swell patterns.

“Long period or infragravity waves cause the swell patterns and have led to 375 hours of shipping delays in just 10 weeks,” Mr Gaddum said. “That’s substantial when compared with the 700 shipping hours lost to bad weather during the preceding 12 months.”

The long, slow waves cause disruptive wave patterns in the harbour and move ships alongside the port.

“Once ships start moving the momentum is extremely dangerous for staff, the vessel and shoreside infrastructure. There has been justifiable frustration over port congestion from all sectors of the local forestry industry in recent weeks. We feel frustrated too, however, the safe operation of the port is the paramount concern.”

Mr Gaddum says the port operates within a strict set of standard operating procedures based on environmental parameters that have been well tested over time.

The scenario leading to multiple ships waiting in the bay was no longer unusual and would occur again.

He cited the availability of only one berth, limits to log storage capacity, and vessel delays, as challenges alongside the disruptive swells.

“With the rapid growth across forestry forcing change, Eastland Port is constantly adapting for the good of the industry.

“The port has identified for some time that having the ability to load two log ships at the same time will be required as the region’s harvest volumes grow.”

Consent for stage one of the Twin Berth development (repairs and maintenance on Wharf 6, Wharf 7, and the slipway) was granted in September 2018. An appeal delayed the start of work and the mediation process started this week.

“We’re working hard with the appellants to ensure the consented works can commence as planned, and a lengthy and expensive Environment Court process is avoided.”

The port exported 2.98m tonnes of wood last financial year.

“We believe the port can export between 3.2m and 3.5m tonnes of logs within the current footprint.

“Our plans will help support the forestry industry and other regional primary exporters, including containerisation through coastal shipping.

“Beyond this we’re going to need the second berth operational.”

Log loading delays at Eastland Port because of persistent heavy seas over the past month have had an impact on the livelihood of some forestry workers.

A number of harvest crews have been stood down and log trucks have been parked up in what has been described as “a challenging time”.

For much of the last month, up to seven log ships have been at anchor in Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay, waiting to load cargo. Consequently the storage areas at the port and Matawhero have been at near capacity.

Loading has resumed in recent days.

“There has been a ship in port loading since Tuesday morning and we anticipate non-stop, continued loading through the weekend and into next week,” said Eastland Port general manager Andrew Gaddum.

“That will hopefully free up space in our log yard by early next week, thereby taking the pressure off those harvesting crews who have been unable to work.”

Forest Enterprises, which operates three highly mechanised harvest crews, has had to stand down the 30 people in its four contracting crews for almost a fortnight.

Regional manager Dan Fraser said they hoped to resume operations on Monday.

“The fixed operating costs for the contractors range up to $6000 a day, so this has been a loss for them, for our investors — for everyone really.

“We had no room in the forests where we have been working to stockpile logs without compromising safety,” Mr Fraser said.

“So the only choice was to shut down the crews.”

They lost a highly skilled operator this week as he was no longer prepared to stay with them because of the uncertainty around his work.

“We support the port’s move towards a second berth, 100 percent,” he said. “It is absolutely critical and cannot come soon enough.”

Ernslaw One regional manager Iain McInnes said they had not stood down crews. “But we are building up high stocks of logs in the forest. I believe it will take an uninterrupted month of loading at the port to get things back to a normal flow of logs and get stocks under control.”

Delays have also affected truck companies.

A F Thompson Contracting Ltd director Gus Thompson said five of their eight log trucks had been parked up and the other three were working out of town.

“It is what it is and we just have to do the best we can,” he said.

Williams and Wilshier and Pacific Haulage group manager Campbell Gilmour said for them it had only had “a slight impact so far”.

“We’re ticking over because we’ve got other options. Not all the wood we cart goes to the port. But if these delays keep going it definitely will affect us.”

Safety first approach

Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland said everyone was trying their best to improve the situation.

“No one wants people to be out of work in a situation like this, particularly when we have got such a strong forestry industry. But it is a challenging time.

“Forestry companies have been working with their harvest contractors to help them and their workers who are struggling financially.”

Ms Holland said some forestry workers had taken holidays while others had been given other work by their employers.

“We are between a log and hard place but we have got to get through, and I am sure we will,” she said.

In an open letter to the forestry industry, port general manager Andrew Gaddum explained the reason for the ship delays and sought industry support.

The unusual step follows a recent high frequency of disruptive swell patterns.

“Long period or infragravity waves cause the swell patterns and have led to 375 hours of shipping delays in just 10 weeks,” Mr Gaddum said. “That’s substantial when compared with the 700 shipping hours lost to bad weather during the preceding 12 months.”

The long, slow waves cause disruptive wave patterns in the harbour and move ships alongside the port.

“Once ships start moving the momentum is extremely dangerous for staff, the vessel and shoreside infrastructure. There has been justifiable frustration over port congestion from all sectors of the local forestry industry in recent weeks. We feel frustrated too, however, the safe operation of the port is the paramount concern.”

Mr Gaddum says the port operates within a strict set of standard operating procedures based on environmental parameters that have been well tested over time.

The scenario leading to multiple ships waiting in the bay was no longer unusual and would occur again.

He cited the availability of only one berth, limits to log storage capacity, and vessel delays, as challenges alongside the disruptive swells.

“With the rapid growth across forestry forcing change, Eastland Port is constantly adapting for the good of the industry.

“The port has identified for some time that having the ability to load two log ships at the same time will be required as the region’s harvest volumes grow.”

Consent for stage one of the Twin Berth development (repairs and maintenance on Wharf 6, Wharf 7, and the slipway) was granted in September 2018. An appeal delayed the start of work and the mediation process started this week.

“We’re working hard with the appellants to ensure the consented works can commence as planned, and a lengthy and expensive Environment Court process is avoided.”

The port exported 2.98m tonnes of wood last financial year.

“We believe the port can export between 3.2m and 3.5m tonnes of logs within the current footprint.

“Our plans will help support the forestry industry and other regional primary exporters, including containerisation through coastal shipping.

“Beyond this we’re going to need the second berth operational.”

‘We just have to grin and bear it’

Wilson Haulage Limited owner Rod Wilson says it it not dire straits yet but running half-days on his fleet of 12 trucks is not a good sign.

The lack of wood flow because log ships are not able to berth at Eastland Port is being felt industry-wide. It is affecting log crews, roading crews and truck drivers who all have bills to pay.

Mr Wilson says if the situation continues, the flow-on effect for everyone will be huge.

Eastland Port needs to get a second boat berth for log ships constructed soon, he says.

“They just need to get on with the consent process and get the port sorted.

“The infragravity waves causing the problem are not the root cause; they’re just making the problem worse.”

The main problem is not being able to get the volume of wood over the wharf with just one berth, he says.

The situation is beyond everyone’s control.

“It’s having an impact on everybody but we just have to grin and bear it.

“We are not hugely affected yet but that doesn’t mean our turn is not coming. The fact we are running half-days on our trucks is not good.

“There are other companies who have no work. If the situation continues we would have to look out of town for work as well.”

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Brian Bell - 1 month ago
Get rail going. Keep trucks off roads.
The port needs to realise its limitations. The port authority and its masters must be held accountable for this.
Just heard Shane Jones say you (the council, port authority or whoever) just need to push through the open door for funds to open rail from Wairoa to Gisborne. Shows how bureaucrats and politicians are strangling the growth of Gisborne.
Open your eyes Gisborne residents.

Winston Moreton - 1 month ago
Forcing capable men and women to leave their whanau and homes is a direct result of the ECT-controlled businesses (including the port) using contractors instead of employees.

Dein Ferris - 1 month ago
So you get consent to build a second berth, which is going to come under the same rules and regulations as the existing berth. The restrictions imposed on the port are a direct result of the grounding of the Jody F Millennium. There were no such restrictions prior to this incident. You talk of safety, in 45-plus years of work on the Gisborne waterfront, there were no incidents such as have happened under Eastland Port's watch. The staff, then, were fully trained and qualified and able to operate safely in all conditions. No doubt you have all the infrastructure, skilled labour, machinery etc that is required to operate two berths efficiently in place. Having another berth does not necessarily double your volume - try asking those who actually load the product. The port has limitations other than the weather. Because of where it is situated it cannot expand and is restricted in its movement of product from the yards to ship side. It seems that the port is solely reliant on the logging industry. Hmmm, I remember when Japan was the China and India of today, history often repeats. I won't mention anything about rail, oops.
PS I am still active on the waterfront, working in the Port of Napier and the Port of Tauranga.

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