Ports of Auckland (POAL) has applied to Auckland Council for consent to deepen the city’s shipping channel and a resource consent hearing on the matter will be held next week.
The request follows the forecast of the local authorities for a significant increase in Auckland’s population, with a million more people expected to live in the major city of New Zealand by 2050.
POAL believes that this increase will boost its containerised imports and attract bigger container ships, as “more people means more demand for the products we all buy from overseas.”
The largest container ships calling in Auckland now carry up to 5,000TEU. Shipping lines want to bring 6,000-7,000TEU vessels in the next 2-3 years, according to Ports of Auckland which predict that in future they will need to host ‘New Panamax’ ships that can carry around 12,000TEU.
The channel is currently 12.5m deep at low tide, but New Panamax ships are 366m long with a maximum draft of 15.2m.
Ports of Auckland is only applying to deepen the channel to 14m and use tidal windows. In common use globally and at other New Zealand ports, a ‘tidal window’ simply means that deeper draft ships enter or leave port when the tide is high enough.
“To create a tidal window suitable for New Panamax ships to access the port safely we will need a channel which is 14m deep on the straights and 14.2m deep on the bends. Our berth will be dredged to 15.5m so ships can stay through a full tide cycle,” explains POAL.
POAL considers “tidal windows” as the most efficient way to accommodate larger container ships, as the can minimise dredging and reduce cost.
The dredging will be done by the lowest impact method available, according to an announcement, a digger on a barge. The digger will have a long arm to reach down to the seabed to scoop out material. The channel bed is mostly soft material like marine muds, mudstones and some sandstone and gritstone, which can be removed easily, while no blasting is required.
If consent is granted, work on deepening the channel could start in 2021, said POAL, which asked for the consent application to be publicly notified by Auckland Council so that people could have their say on the project. POAL added that over two hundred submissions were received.