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COVID 19 Update Ports Of Auckland Response

The current situation and Ports of Auckland Response

Update to Shipping Lines and Shipping Agents

Update 3: 25 March 2020


Good Afternoon,


The current situation:

New Zealand is now at COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and will move to Alert Level 4 at 23:59 today. After this all except essential businesses will close.


Ports of Auckland is an essential business and so are all the businesses we work with. This includes all trucking companies, stevedores, contractors and so on.


Our Response:

We have reorganised our business so that staff who need to be here to keep the port operating can be here and be safe. Staff who can do their jobs from home will now work from home to reduce the risk of infection getting into the port.


This means the way you interact with some of our functions, like customer services, will change. More detail will be provided later today. We are operating with fewer staff from now on, this is unavoidable. But we will prioritise the movement of freight through our operational teams and we will keep the port open.


What you can do:


We need a huge effort from all parts of the supply chain to help to keep the port open. It’s vital that everybody knows how to protect themselves from infection and that anyone who is sick or who has travelled in the past 14 days should not come to the port. These simple steps will help us help you.


Our prime objective is to ensure the well-being of our staff so we can continue to keep the port open and operating efficiently. To achieve this objective and keep cargo flowing, there are several changes we need to implement now.


Yard Capacity

We have opened up extra capacity at the northern part of the Terminal now that we have suspended Go Live for Automation.


We are uncertain of the import volumes or volume demands over the next few weeks and the potential for inbound containers to have no home to go to as they may be deemed non-essential cargo.

We need to keep this freight moving so we intend to take a firm stance on maintaining standard free time periods for import and export containers. We urge all importers and forwarders to find alternative arrangements to move non-essential import containers off port.


We need to reduce the number of empty containers in the On-Dock Link facility to manage yard space for import and export containers. We will cease the acceptance of import empty returns to the Link from 1700 hours Monday 30th March 2020 and ask that Lines redirect import units to external empty depots. When planning empties to load to vessels, units already in Link are to be prioritised for empty evacuation.


Labour Resourcing


Terminal Operations – A number of stevedores can no longer come to work due to the increased alert levels and government recommendations. As we move to Alert Level 4 it is inevitable there will be further impacts. We have for some time operated with the stevedoring workforce in teams and we will have these teams operating from separate on-port facilities with high level hygiene controls from 0630 Thursday 26th to limit any possible cross-infection.


Because of the increased hygiene controls, shift changeovers will take a little longer as the facilities need to be cleaned before the new shift arrive. This might slow operations a little, but if a colleague becomes infected it will limit the spread in the organisation and protect our ability to work.


Marine Operations – we have been working to tight controls since late January and the team are being closely monitored as well. Some of the team are under self-isolation, which is making ship movements more difficult, but we are coping. We are not always able to handle multiple ship movements at the same time and need to stage the operations differently. Our Marine team are working closely with Terminal Operations and Multi-Cargo to ensure vessel delays are kept to a minimum.


Our staff wellbeing is our priority and it is being managed very closely and are doing all we can to ensure our staff remain healthy and able to attend work.


Cargo Cut Offs; Export Empties; Hazardous Cargoes


To ensure that we can better manage demand whilst balancing yard utilisation and staff resourcing, we need to put in place tighter controls related to cargo cut offs and forecasting of more accurate and timely container exchange information.


We are continuing to operate under our berth window procedures and proforma berth windows. Each Terminal service has a window size based on proforma move count and our Berthage Managers work with services and Vessel Operators to maximise the number of moves based on schedule and current labour and yard conditions. We wish to maintain the berth windows for as long as we can as this provides some certainty to Lines for schedule and onward planning.

As Yard and Labour capacity become constrained then moves will either be reduced and/or we will suspend the berth windows.


To get a better feel for the demand we must implement more vigilant controls related to forecasted exchange sizes and cargo cut offs. If Yard space and labour supply become constrained, then knowing what we should realistically prepare for will help us to better manage our resource.


Therefore we will implement the following at Fergusson Container Terminal from next Wednesday 1st April 2020:


  • All vessel cut offs to be set at 24 hours before the vessel arrival.
  • POAL will manage late cargo requests only via the vessel operator (VOP). The standard late gate process will apply as we have in place today, these requests need to be exceptions.
  • We will require the VOP to coordinate across VSA partners 72 hours before vessel arrival (48 hours before cut off) the final container exchange for the vessel call. This must include an accurate discharge/load profile with specific focus also on empty load numbers.
  • We would request 7-10 days and no later than 5 days before vessels arrival updated Container Booking Forecasts (CBF's) of the expected exchange.
  • Export empties will be managed into the Container Terminal for specific vessels against agreed delivery schedules coordinated via the external Empty Container Depots and your nominated Empty Carriers. Today we work to a process whereby the Empty Carrier will provide a forecasted demand for the next 24 hours each day by 1300 hours (for Monday deliveries this is done by 1300 Friday) and our Gate Ops team confirm slots to those Carriers by 1500 that same day for the following day. This does require your Logistics teams to work closely with Vessel Ops and Container Depots to ensure the volume demands are aligned with what you can load to a vessel based on your CBF's and final load figures. We do not want the terminal filling with empties that cannot be loaded due to a changing operating environment.
  • Hazardous Import containers. We have a genuine concern that due to the increase in controls we will experience import DG cargo that cannot be delivered into market due to non-essential status. We ask that All Lines please validate with your Shippers and importers that when booking hazardous containers for destination Auckland that the importer has confirmed their ability to take delivery of the containers when arriving. We cannot have a situation whereby we become jammed with import hazardous containers that exceed our allowable storage license and constrain our operations. Our Customer Services team will reach out to your import teams seeking assistance if we identify long dwelling units and we would appreciate your assistance in ensuring these are cleared and moved as soon as possible.



VBS and VBS Slots for ‘essential’ cargoes

The total number of VBS slots released daily will remain the same at this stage. However, the timeframe for slots released in advance will be reduced from 9 to 5 days for Imports and 4 days for Exports. We will start adjusting the release times within the next few days.

This will allow us to manage any potential factors, such as vessel schedule changes, staff resourcing constraints and yard capacity, all which can have an impact on our operations and the flow of containers.

Carriers can email our Gate Ops team if any priority slots are required. Priority will be given to Dangerous Goods; Active Reefer containers and we will be establishing a process for requesting priority VBS slots for any ‘essential’ medical or food supplies which we will be confirming separately over the next few days.

Import and Export cargo free time and storage at port:

We have received many enquiries in recent days asking for our position on providing storage for non-essential import cargo.

Our position is very clear: We need keep all freight moving so we can keep the port running and get essential cargo through.

Our message to the Logistics industry is ‘keep coming to the port to pick up your freight’, even if it’s not considered ‘essential’ right now. We need all freight to keep moving to ensure that essential goods can also get through.

For that reason, we must maintain our standard import free time of 3 days from day of cargo discharge as well as the standard free time for export cargoes of 5 days prior to the vessel’s arrival. At the Fergusson Container Terminal, the export cargo cut off is being brought forward to 24 hours before the vessel’s arrival.

We take our role as critical lifeline infrastructure seriously. We remain focused on ensuring vital supplies can get through and ensuring we support your businesses, the community and New Zealand as we navigate this unprecedented event.

I hope this update is useful. I will provide further updates as the situation changes.

Keep in touch. Tell us what’s happening in your business to help us plan more effectively how we can support you.


Kind regards

Craig Sain

GM Commercial

Ports of Auckland