The Ports of Auckland has scrapped its long-awaited container automation project after years of delays.
The $65 million project to automate the Fergusson Container Terminal – which began in 2016 and was expected to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020 – did not have an end date in sight when it was scuppered on Wednesday.
“The reality is, we just couldn't make it work and as a result, that's why the board's made the decision to terminate the project,” Ports of Auckland chief executive Roger Gray said.
It was feared jobs would be on the line, with the Maritime Union voicing concerns automation had failed at ports across the globe.
“I guess we feel a little bit vindicated that in the end, what we were saying in 2015, 2016, has now come to fruition. It’s just a shame that it's come at such a great cost to shareholders,” the Maritime Union's Russell Mayn said.
The latest report into the project showed more time and money was needed.
“We couldn't determine when the system would be stable enough and able to produce at a level we needed to go live,” Gray said.
While plans to automate the port have ceased, not all is lost, with new cranes and a wharf extension expected to aid in future growth.
The money funnelled into the project - most of which went towards software – has since been written off, and 27 automated straddle carriers will be converted into manual.
“The current board and the current management and the stevedores and all the workers have been left to pick up the pieces,” Mayn said.
Outgoing Auckland mayor Phil Goff has ordered a review into the project.
“I really want to know that when you make a decision to invest a lot of money in what's called a cutting-edge technology, that you did your homework first and I don't know that the Chief Executive and the board at the time did that,” Goff said.
Gray is focused on regaining the trust of customers, shareholders and Aucklanders.
“What I'm really about is moving forward now.”