19 Feb 2014

Port profit rise benefits ratepayers

11:05 am on 19 February 2014

Auckland ratepayers are to receive a dividend of nearly $21 million from the Ports of Auckland, which has increased its profits by 70 percent.

The port handled a record number of containers.

The port handled a record number of containers. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Profit at the council-owned asset rose to $26.4 million for the six months to December, compared to $15.5 million for the same time a year earlier.

The company will pay an interim dividend of $20.94 million to Auckland Council Investments, up from $11.6 million last year.

The profit increase has been driven by a higher number of car imports, as well as a jump in imports and exports being loaded through Auckland.

Freight volumes lifted across the board, with a record number of containers handled.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson puts the profit rise down to an increase in productivity, which includes unloading and loading ships 44 percent faster.

He cites its controversial restructuring for helping boost profits, saying the company is bearing the fruit of changes that include 60 percent of the stevedores working flexible shifts. Their union had opposed that change.

Mr Gibson says the port could deliver a better result if it could fully resolve the dispute.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee says the increase in profit is good news for the people of Auckland, who own the port, and part of the reason for the increase is a break in industrial action.

Mr Lee, who also chairs the infrastructure committee, says the company has learnt that if it wants to increase the profitability of its workers, it has to treat them well.

The port's managers and the union are still in negotiations with retired judge Barry Travis facilitating.

Mr Lee says the two sides need to sit down and work their issues out like adults.