Port to wait and see regarding noise issue

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Big rig . . . The Rio de Janeiro berthed in Dunedin earlier this year. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

by Chris Tobin

PrimePort Timaru is delighted a weekly service of massive Maersk Rio-class container vessels has started but will wait and see how things turn out regarding possible noise issues.

The vessels’ loud generator noise has caused concern at some ports, including Port Otago and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch.

Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders told the Otago Daily Times with Timaru “coming on board”, he hoped the company would join Port Otago and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch in combined efforts to retrofit silencers on the ships for when they were alongside wharves.

“Mr Winders has not discussed to that effect with me,” PrimePort Timaru chief executive Phil Melhopt said.

“We’ve got to find if there is a similar issue here about noise before we really have much more to do with it.”

In March, the Dunedin City Council received 24 noise complaints from residents near Port Chalmers, about the vessels which have the capacity for 1250 refrigerated containers.

However, comments were made that surrounding hills could have contributed to the noise issues at Port Chambers and also Lyttelton.

The noise is caused by shipboard generators cooling down refrigerated containers and the need to open ventilator apertures because of overheating engines.

PrimePort has secured the weekly service from Port Otago, which had it since October last year. A trial was made in Timaru two months ago with container ship Rio de Janeiro, which also called at the port on Sunday and left on Tuesday morning after being delayed by heavy swells.

Earlier in the year, PrimePort completed a $2.5million project to remove a rock wall and widen the port’s inner breakwater entrance from 90m to 140m, making it possible for vessels such as Rio de Janeiro, which is more than 280m long, to visit.

Mr Melhopt said the new service showed PrimePort was on track.

“It’s a demonstration shipping companies are working well with us and we’re able to have the capacity to bring them in.

“It will improve our coastal connection for our service and helps our connection with Tauranga and our transshipping through Tauranga.”