The Port of Tauranga has received approval from the New Zealand government to widen and deepen its shipping channels to enable access for larger ships carrying up to 8,000 containers.
Work under the dredging project will be carried out in several stages, with the first stage scheduled to start at the end of 2013 and expected to be completed by mid-2014.
The scope of work under the first stage of the project involves widening and deepening the shipping channel from 12.9m to 16m depth at low water that is expected to help Tauranga Harbour in accommodating ships of up to 347m long and 14.5m draught.
About NZ$40m-50m ($33m-$41m) would be spent on the first stage, which will give access to ships with a capacity of 5,000teu-6,000teu at the port. It currently allows ships of up to 4,500teu.
The second stage of dredging would allow access to ships of 8,200teu, future-proofing the port for the next 15 to 20 years.
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said the project will improve the competitiveness of New Zealand exporters and provide lower freight costs for importers.
"Larger ships, both containerised and bulk, have relatively higher fuel efficiency – and are therefore more carbon efficient – with lower operating costs per unit," Cairns said.
The dredging project will help to open up larger trade routes that the New Zealand Shippers’ Council estimates could be worth up to NZ$338m ($279m) a year, and up to NZ$391m ($323.8m) per year by 2020.
The expansion is part of a NZ$170m ($140.8m) capital expenditure programme to increase capacity and improve productivity at the port.
Image: First phase dredging at the Port of Tauranga will start at the end of 2013. Photo: Port of Tauranga.