Ports of Auckland unveils plans to complete automation upgrade

POAL unveils revised automation project

Ports of Auckland (POAL) has unveiled plans to complete its automation upgrade after it was paused in June 2021 following safety concerns.

In a statement, POAL said the safety concerns that put a halt to the project have been resolved and it is now ready to restart with a revised implementation plan.

The project will be implemented in four stages, with the first to start shortly. Each stage has milestones which must be met before the project can progress to the next stage. The milestones are based on safety, reliability, productivity, and operational readiness.

The stages are system acceptance testing, automation of part and then all of the Ferguson Terminal North Berth and finally go-live of operations.

Unlike other, larger ports, Auckland doesn’t have space to build a new automated terminal off-line, and then turn it on when complete. According to POAL, it has to automate the terminal while still operating, making it a more complex project. 

Additionally, POAL said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the upgrade even more difficult, as lockdowns have caused border closures and stopped overseas experts to come on site.

Despite these hurdles, the project has successfully handled over 100 ships, but the speed and reliability of the system is not yet up to expectations. A safety review also found that the safety assurance framework for the project needed more work. 

“A detailed project review has found it is realistic and achievable to complete the project and go-live by late March 2022,” POAL said.

“However, this timing could impact existing import volume demand and the peak export season and cause further supply chain disruption. 

“For this reason, we won’t give a go-live date until later in the project. If we feel that going live in March would jeopardise the 2022 export season, we will delay it. 

“There is still a risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand, especially from the Delta variant. A COVID-19 outbreak could delay the project. 

“We are committed to completing automation. It will help provide the freight capacity Auckland needs for its future growth without any more harbour reclamation. 

“We are now well positioned to complete this project safely, successfully and with minimum disruption for the supply chain.” 

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