28 Oct 2011

Higher earnings still expected by port company

9:30 pm on 28 October 2011

Despite the effects of the PSA kiwifruit disease and the disruption and damage caused by the Rena stranding, the Port of Tauranga expects its earnings to rise this financial year.

Chief executive Mark Cairns told shareholders at the port's annual meeting on Thursday that he expects annual profit to be within forecasts of $64 - $67 million - an increase of 10% - 16% on the previous year's surplus.

Mr Cairns said trading jumped 13% in the September quarter, with log exports rising 23%, container movements by 11% and earnings after tax up 16%.

But Mr Cairns said kiwifruit export volumes will be lighter due to the effects of the Psa disease, and while the Rena disaster has had little effect on the port's operations, the ripples for the region may be greater.

Mr Cairns spoke of the initial hopes that were held of refloating the Rena.

He said he awoke to a phone call from the police at about 2.30am on 5 October, the day the ship went aground.

Along with the harbourmaster, port and Maritime New Zealand personnel, he was at the Rena 1½ hours later.

He says they wanted to refloat the ship at high tide by removing some cargo, but that was not possible because it was too far onto the reef.