The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck near Kaikoura just after midnight on November 14 not only shook the land, it also sent a tremor through New Zealand’s transport industry.
While road, rail and port shipping services were physically disrupted, particularly around the crucial transport axis of Cook Strait, the earthquake and its impact rocked the industry’s thinking.
The earthquake has forced us to consider and investigate new and alternative methods and routes for moving freight throughout New Zealand and offshore – not solely relying on well-worn paths that are valuable, yet vulnerable to unforeseen events such as a natural disaster.
The road and rail lines from Picton to Christchurch were severed in the quake and are in the long, slow process of being reinstated. The State Highway One road access south of Kaikoura was opened before Christmas, but the highway north is likely to stay closed until the end of the year. It is likely the rail link will take even longer to repair.
Wellington’s CentrePort is still not fully operational after its gantry cranes were made inoperable by the quake. It may be six months until the port can resume modified crane operations.
With the exporting of goods and services worth more than $70 billion a year to the New Zealand economy, a reliable transport system is crucial to sustaining and growing overseas markets. International customers expect their goods to reach their destination on time, whatever the circumstances, and we believe Port Taranaki can play a big part in that.
Since the quake, our leadership team has been working hard to offer the port as an alternative stop for shipping companies and importers and exporters. We have made it clear we have the facilities and expertise to resume container trade immediately – pushing the point that a coastal shipping service that includes New Zealand’s most well-equipped west coast port is a practical and sensible long-term strategic alternative to the onshore transport system.
We will continue to do this as it aligns with our three pillars of maximum asset utilisation, customer intimacy and service excellence.
The earthquake has also emphasised the importance of being prepared for a disaster. We have a robust emergency response plan to help us deal with specific emergencies. Key members of our response team are trained in the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS), which is the same system used by Civil Defence and the emergency services. We also have a business continuity plan that identifies all of our key processes and the work-arounds we can put in place if needed.
Overlaying both of these is a crisis management process to control the wider implications on operations at the port should any emergency occur.
We are confident our people and our business are prepared for whatever nature has in store.