Westport Harbour

From Global Energy Monitor

Westport Harbour is on the west coast of the South Island at the mouth of the Buller River in New Zealand. The port is owned by the Buller Regional Council and is capable of handling coal exports, including to Asia via New Zealand's Port Taranaki.


Westport Harbour is on the west coast of the South Island at the mouth of the Buller River in New Zealand.

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The first rail connected the Westport Harbour (or Port of Westport) with coal fields north of Westport in 1874. However, the Port of Westport remained relatively isolated until 1942 when the Stillwater-Westport Line linked the Port of Westport to the national rail network through Buller Gorge.[1]

From 1997 to 2000, coal shipments were made through the port using “Union Bulk 1,” a 16,000 tonnes deadweight and “the largest barge in the Southern Hemisphere.” The majority of shipments were to Australia. In 2005, about 184,000 tonnes of coal were barged from Westport Harbour to Australia and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch in New Zealand.[2]

Bathurst Resources

Bathurst Resources operates or operated the Stockton mine, the Takitimu mine, the Maramarua mine, the Rotowaro mine, the Cascade mine, and the Escarpment mine. Their Canterbury mine ceased operating at the end of June 2021.[3]

In 2010, coal export facilities were being planned to handle a significant volume of coal exports from Bathurst Resources’ existing and proposed coal mines.[4] Coal volumes were expected to reach two million tonnes within three years.[5]

The first shipment of coal from Bathurst Resources’ Cascade mine was dispatched to Port Taranaki from where it was sent as part of a larger shipment to Asia. Bathurst Resources aimed to export approximately 50-75,000 tonnes per annum from the Cascade mine[6] and was planning on exporting approximately 1-2 million tonnes per annum from the Escarpment mine and the Deep Creek mine. The three mines are a part of Bathurst Resources' larger multi-mine Buller Coal Project.[7]

In 2013, proposals to increase the amount of coastal shipping of coal from the port, as a tradeoff against the cost of rail transport, were seen as a harbinger of new opportunities and activity that were not on the horizon before Bathurst Resources made them a priority in their planning. At the time, Holcim was the Port’s only significant shipping customer. The Chief Executive of Westport Harbour Limited & Port noted the following: “Whether we could sustain ownership of the dredge, and dredging activity, on behalf of the council would be debatable.”[8]

Brightwater Engineering designed and delivered a 3,000+ tonne coal storage and ship loading facility for Bathurst Resources according to its website. Brightwater described the project as follows: “As the capacity of their West Coast operations increased, Buller Coal explored options and solutions for the transportation of coal via the Port of Westport to the Port of Taranaki in New Plymouth. In particular a facility for the receipt of coal via road and eventually rail transport that would allow for the temporary storage and efficient ship loading of the coal.”[9]

According to a 2013 RBC Capital Markets document, transhipment to Port Taranaki was required because Westport Harbour was shallow and unable to accommodate the vessels required to export coal.[10] The investor document also detailed the following:

“The Buller project mines are located within 15km of the port at Westport. The transhipment to New Plymouth, while resulting in additional handling, is already in operation. Unlike many coal projects requiring large-scale rail and/or port development, the Bathurst logistics chain is already in place, operational, and has capacity.”[10]
"Bathurst signed an agreement with the Port of Westport in February 2011 for the exclusive use of the coal handling facilities and additionally formed a joint venture with the port authority for a staged upgrade of the existing facilities. Stage one of the port upgrade (NZ$5 million) involved the development of a covered storage facility (9,000t capacity) and a coal unloading system capable of receiving coal by both truck and rail; this was completed in December 2012. This is expected to support initial production levels. The current shiploader (650tph capacity) would be capable of handling South Buller production; however, Bathurst is assessing plans to spend an additional NZ$20–30 million to install new shiploading facilities to service vessels on both sides of the wharf thereby increasing port capacity to 3mtpa."[10]


In 1988, Buller Port Services entered a contract for the management of the port and harbour on behalf of the Buller District Council. Buller Port Services was a subsidiary of major port customer Holcim NZ Ltd.

In 2010, Buller Port Services ceased to manage the port, and Westport Harbour Limited took over the management under an agreement with Buller District Council.

Westport Harbour Ltd was a fully owned subsidiary of the Buller District Council's holding company Buller Holdings Ltd from 2010 to 2018, when the company was wound up and operations transferred back to council control.

Project Details

Contact details

Website: http://www.westportharbour.co.nz/

Articles and Resources


  1. “Port of Westport: Review and History,” World Port Source, accessed October 2021
  2. "History," Westport Harbour Limited, accessed October 2021
  3. “Overview,” Bathurst Resources, accessed October 2021
  4. "Coal Facilities Under Development," Media Release, February 2, 2010
  5. "Bathurst Resources to use Westport Harbour Facility to Ship Coal," Mining Technology, February 24, 2011
  6. "Presentation to HELSEC Hong Kong Forum," Bathurst Resources, March 2012, page 6
  7. Bathurst Resources, "Interim DFS results confirm project viability," Media Release, August 18, 2010
  8. “The Pain Of ‘Uncertainty’: The Westport Story, part 2,” Scoop, August 1, 2013
  9. “Buller Coal Port Storage and Ship Loading Facility,” Brightwater, accessed October 2021
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 “Bathurst Resources Limited (ASX: BTU; NZSE: BTU) Initiation of coverage - Outperform; high-quality metallurgical coal exposure,” RBC Capital Markets, January 29, 2013

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