Port of Tauranga is budgeting on moving more than 1.2 million containers across its wharves in the current financial year.

The company, which reported 8 percent cargo growth in the September quarter, handled the equivalent of 1.18 million 20-foot containers in the June year, almost 9 percent more than a year earlier.

In a presentation to investors today, the port indicated it may handle about 1.25 million containers this year. September quarter volumes were 0.7 percent higher at 296,000 containers.

Bulk cargoes, including logs, fertiliser and fuel, are budgeted to get close to 12 million tonnes this year, from about 11.7 million in the past year.

Port of Tauranga is the country’s largest and also has interests in Northport and PrimePort Timaru. Last month, it forecast full-year net profit of $96 million to $101 million, from $93.4 million in the June year.

It is benefitting from strong on-going forestry and horticulture growth in the upper North Island, strong demand from China for New Zealand products, improved rail services with Auckland and Hamilton, and increased hubbing volumes around the coast.

Tourism is another driver. Cruise ship visits are expected to exceed 110 this year and reach 120 the following year. The port handled 81 liners last year.

Port of Tauranga shares were unchanged at $5.10 today. They have gained about 4 percent so far this year.

In today’s presentation, the company indicates export log volumes may reach 6.5 million tonnes, from 6.27 million last year. While palm kernel and fertiliser volumes are expected to fall, it has forecast imports of 60,000 tonnes of coal, its first since the June 2017 year and the most since 2014.

Dairy growth is expected to continue, albeit at slower rates than the past two years. Dairy container traffic may get close to 170,000, from just over 160,000 last year.

Kiwifruit export tray volumes are also expected to climb to 151.5 million, from 150.6 million last year.

Container growth through the port has averaged 8 percent a year in the 15 years since 2002.

The company is now looking at options to extend its 770-metre quay by up to 385 metres to the south. It plans to add a ninth container crane in 2020.

It is also looking at reconfiguring its container terminal which can currently support about 1.5 million containers. A range of layouts, with additional stacker cranes and potentially rail-mounted gantries, could lift that to 1.9 million, 2.4 million or 2.8 million.

The company noted that planning and consenting the berth extension could take two years, with another 18 months required for construction.

The lead time for getting stacking cranes is up to 18 months, while ship-to-shore cranes could take up to two years.

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