Auckland plans to meet growing demand by deepening channel

An image of the Auckland docks

The Port of Auckland has applied to Auckland Council for permission to deepen the city’s shipping channel as it looks to meet growing regional and global demand.

In a statement, the port said, Auckland’s population is forecast to grow significantly, with a million more people expected to live here by 2050.

More people means more demand for the products we all buy from overseas, which means more containerised imports and – bigger container ships.

The largest container ships calling in Auckland now carry up to 5,000 twenty-foot containers (TEU). Shipping lines want to bring 6-7,000 TEU ships here in the next 2-3 years and in future we will need to host ‘New Panamax’ ships that can carry around 12,000 TEU.

The port’s channel is currently 12.5 metres deep at low tide, but New Panamax ships are 366 metres long with a maximum draft of 15.2 metres.

In addition to deepening the channel, it also wants to create what it calls ‘tidal windows’, which allows deeper draft ships to enter or leave port when the tide is high enough.

To create a tidal window suitable for New Panamax ships to access port safely, the port said it will need a channel which is 14 metres deep on the straights and 14.2 metres deep on the bends. Its berth will be dredged to 15.5 metres so ships can stay through a full tide cycle.

By using tidal windows, it can minimise dredging and reduce cost. It is the most efficient way to accommodate larger container ships.

Ports of Auckland asked for the consent application to be publicly notified by Auckland Council so that people could have their say on the project. Over two hundred submissions were received.

If consent is granted, work on deepening the channel could start in 2021.

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