New Zealand Ports Work to Resume Operations After Devastating Cyclone 

New Zealand cyclone
New Zealand's ports were evacuated in advance of the devastating storm (Tauranga file photo)

Published Feb 14, 2023 4:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Major ports in New Zealand expect to start resuming service on February 14 after operations were paralyzed by Cyclone Gabrielle, which has forced the country to declare a state of emergency. It was only the third time in the country’s history that a national state of emergency has been declared.

Operations at the ports of Auckland, Tauranga, and Napier were brought to a standstill as the cyclone began to reach the areas on Sunday, February 12 ravaging New Zealand’s North Island with relentless wind, rain, and waves. The storm was expected to continue to impact the region at least through late on Tuesday. By the time the storm began to subside, there were widespread reports of flooding and landslides with some 2,500 people displaced and at least a quarter of a million without power.

The severe weather prompted the shipping lines to take precautionary measures. Maersk announced that its vessels have been forced to depart from the port of Tauranga anchorage where they would remain at sea until it is deemed safe for them to return. At the port of Auckland, the company said that due to uncertainty concerning the direction of the cyclone, all vessels alongside the berths were also forced to depart the port.

“Maersk teams are working closely with affected terminals, depots, and transport service providers to assess the ongoing impact of the situation on a service-by-service basis,” the company informed customers.




New Zealand Meteorological Service said the cyclone is a widespread and significant weather event with damaging winds and significant heavy rain continuing to pound various parts, especially across northern and central New Zealand. Red warnings, the highest alert level had been issued by the service. The national emergency declaration also anticipated lasting effects for several days after the brunt of the storm moved away.

“This declaration will enable the government to support the affected regions, provide additional resources as they are needed, and help set the priorities across the country for the response,” said Kieran McAnulty, Minister for Emergency Management.

The state of emergency declaration came a day after New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced a $7.3 million aid package. The cyclone is the second significant weather event to hit key parts of the country after Auckland and the upper North Island were hit by record rainfall that sparked flooding last month killing four people.

New Zealand’s busiest ports of Tauranga, Auckland, and Napier said that normal service is expected to partially resume on Wednesday.

“The worst of Cyclone Gabrielle has now passed Auckland. High wind continues to be a factor this morning but will likely reduce later today. We will start limited operations today to prepare for a full restart tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15. The port infrastructure has held up well, but the team will be busy over the next few weeks as we recover from the lost operational time,” said Auckland port.

Tauranga, Auckland, and Napier are New Zealand’s busiest ports with Tauranga handling 1.2 million TEUs for the financial year ending June 2022. Total trade during the period stood at 25.6 million tons while ship visits numbered 1,369. The port of Auckland handled about 812,000 TEUs while Napier handled 254,000 TEUs.