Quake Damages Wellington Port Facilities

Wellington CentrePort's Aotea Quay (file image, Doc Searles)

By MarEx 2016-11-17 12:56:18

Wellington's CentrePort has only partially reopened following Sunday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which damaged its buildings, wharves and roadways. 

Liquefaction and differential settlement affected key parts of the port's infrastructure. Two commercial buildings, the port's recently built Statistics House and Shed 39, will require extensive engineering inspections. The government will conduct an external technical evaluation of the Statistics House to learn more about why it suffered damage. 

Foul weather affected the initial response to the quake, the port said. 

“We had to suspend operations to conduct engineering assessments of all our infrastructure and buildings amid adverse weather conditions, while much of the CBD was also closed for safety reasons,” said CentrePort CEO Derek Nind. "By Monday night, we managed to get ferries up and running and we’ve also got the Seaview oil terminal open and today we’ve got a rail line working so we can begin moving freight off the port to waiting customers."

Despite damage, the port is playing a part in the regional relief effort: Nind says it is a point of resupply and refueling for the naval vessels serving the Kaikoura area of the South Island, where the quake hit hardest. 

“Our focus needs to be on restoring operations as quickly as possible while maintaining public safety," said port chairman Lachie Johnstone. 

The port is already planning to open one freight wharf Thursday and it expects the first tanker shipment since the quake to arrive soon. 

The port's Aotea Quay and its main container operation remain out of action. Johnstone told local media that between lost rents from damaged commercial buildings and reduced income from port operations, CentrePort expects to pay a much reduced dividend to its majority owner, the Greater Wellington Regional Council. In addition to the reduced income, the Council may have to find new offices: the damaged Shed 39 was its headquarters building. 

The Port of Lyttleton (near Christchurch) reopened all operations on November 14. Lyttleton suffered extensive damage during the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, but it was spared in Sunday's shock, which had an epicenter much farther to the north.