Port Otago today launched $30 million dollars worth of upgrade projects that will allow the port to cater to the next generation of container ships.
The two-year project will involve channel deepening, berth deepening and warehouse expansion and will create about 15 full-time jobs in the area.
Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said the shipping channel at Port Chalmers would be deepened from 13 to 14 metres by the end of 2016.
Mr Plunket said container ships have been increasing in size for some years.
"We're the deepest container port at present and by deepening, that maintains our position," he said.
"We need to position the port for these trends ahead of the time when the facilities are required."
He said 350,000 cubic metres of sand and material will be dredged from the sea this year and a further 1 million cubic metres next year.
He said the dredging would be carried with as little environmental impact as possible.
Mr Plunket said obtaining consents had taken more than five years and said the port had been working closely with the Port Chalmers community.
In line with the channel deepening, container berths would also be deepened, which required reinforcement of the wharf.
Warehouse capacity would also be increased, at a cost of about $11 million.