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Continued steady growth for Port Nelson

Continued growth in cargo volume has contributed to Port Nelson delivering an operating profit of $30.5 million for the 2018/2019 financial year. This is an increase of $3.4 million compared to the $27.1 million reported in 2018. Net Profit After Tax, including a $2.6 million increase in the valuation of investment property, was $15.3 million.

In consideration of the steady growth of the region’s exports through the port and the promising returns on investments, Port Nelson’s Chair, Phil Lough, announced an additional $800,000 dividend payment would be made to shareholders, this is on top of the full-year declared dividend of $5.5 million.

Cargo volume was up on the last financial year to 3.6 million tonnes buoyed by a growth in log volumes driven by increased Chinese demand and the early harvesting of wood instigated by the forest fires earlier in the year. Container throughput was marginally down compared to last year. This was due to a change in shipping services resulting in fewer empty containers transhipped through Nelson. However, the weekly Pacifica coastal service has introduced a larger vessel to absorb transhipment export volumes. Container visits for Maersk’s Northern Star service and CMA CGM’s PAD service returned to the region for the peak pip fruit season through winter. Exporter utilisation of all shipping services was strong.

Apple exports remained consistent with previous year’s volumes however drought conditions impacted crops causing these to remain below expected growth forecasts for the financial year. Overseas demand for premium New Zealand wine continues to stay healthy, and the resulting growth in dry goods imports and wine exports through Port Nelson, in turn, enabled the expansion of QuayConnect, the Port's third-party logistics wine distribution and storage business.

With sustained export log growth, Port Nelson is working to make more efficient use of existing log storage yards including the recently reclaimed Calwell Slipway area, the Graham Street plot and further investigation into other opportunities.

Ahead of receiving larger vessels, Port Nelson continued to make significant investments including the new Huria Matenga II, a Damen 2411 tug with 70-tonne bollard pull capacity, the $20million redevelopment of Main Wharf North, recently awarded to contractor McDonnell Dowell, and innovative technologies to improve port safety and operational sustainability and productivity.

Mr Lough commented that the Port continues to deliver on its strategic objectives growing from strength to strength. The 2019 financial performance was further evidence of the Port understanding the regions and its users' requirements and ensuring that these were being supported. However, Mr Lough is cautiously optimistic about the next few years as export log prices have cooled recently, shipping lines continuously seek to gain efficiencies, and the labour market remains tight.

After 15 years of service Martin Byrne resigned as CEO in July and has been replaced by Hugh Morrison. Hugh Morrison commenced at Port Nelson on September 9.

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