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Major earthquake repair costs warns Port of Lyttelton

Wednesday 8th September 2010

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The Lyttelton Port Company has issued a force majeure notice to coal exporter Solid Energy as a precaution after Canterbury’s Saturday earthquake. 

The port has quickly got itself back up to operational capacity, including loading a 20,000 tonne shipment of Pike River Coal in the past couple of days, but has taken a cautious approach to future coal loading, chief executive Peter Davie said.

A force majeure, meaning "greater force" in French, is sometimes invoked by companies when a natural disaster or other event outside their control disrupts normal operations. 

Lyttelton Port’s basic infrastructure survived the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, but it damaged the fundamental connections between wharves and solid land and will require repairs costing tens of millions of dollars following slumps and damage to sea walls. 

An empty KiwiRail coal train was sent across the hastily repaired Midland Line to the West Coast on Monday, and successfully returned with a load of coal the next day. 

Davie said the port is confident it will be able load all of Solid Energy’s coal exports, but that a force majeure notice is a prudent disclosure given the earthquake circumstances.

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