Ports of Auckland Scraps automation Project

Straddle carriers working at the Fergusson Container Terminal

Leaving $65 million of automation software and guidance system useless, Ports of Auckland has announced it will scrap the automation of the Fergusson Container Terminal.

Auckland Council said it would seek a review of decisions made by the former chief executive and board of directors of the Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) to commence the project back in 2016.

“The decision by POAL’s previous chief executive and former board is of deep concern to council, as the sole shareholder of the ports,” said Mayor Phil Goff.

Ports of Auckland board chair Jan Dawson said the decision to scrap the automation project was done in the best interests of the company, its stakeholders, and the New Zealand supply chain.

He said a review indicated the project was experiencing continued delays, was not performing to expectations, and he was not confident in the projected timeline or cost to completion.

Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) Auckland branch secretary Russell Mayne said many Auckland port workers were concerned the automation system would cause a serious accident.

"Given the number of incidents and issues with the automated machines, the decision to end the programme removes the chance of a serious accident,” he said.

“I think many port workers will be breathing a sigh of relief.”

Mayne said port workers that interacted with automated machines found the experience “unpleasant".

MUNZ national secretary Craig Harrison said the union had maintained for years that the automated system was not going to work.

"There are automated port systems that work, but they are much bigger and completely different set up as to what we had in Auckland. What we've been saying all along is that this project was never fit for purpose," Harrison said.

Auckland Council chief executive Jim Stabback said it was important that a review take place as soon as possible.