Port Operations Information > Port Access - Marine

  • Direction - Approach

    Outer Leading lights. From the vicinity of the pilot boarding place, the alignment (164 1/4) of leading lights, in the white sector (164° - 165 1/2) of the front light, which is a direction light, situated close East of Haulashore Island, leads towards the harbour entrance and through the centre of the dredged channel, passing West of Boulder Bank

    Front light (white triangle, point up, on piles) (41° 16.2'S, 173° 15.4'E).

    Rear light (white triangle, point down) 3 1/4 cables South South East of front light).

    The outer leads open from a vessel to East of track.

    The dredged outer channel is 180 metres wide and near the entrance there are shoals on either side of it. The shoal on the northern side of the entrance is known as the "outer shoal". In bad weather and when the wind is against the tide this shoal produces waves which are dangerous to small craft. Small craft should note the positions of the red sectors of the Schnapper light (41° 12.2'S, 173° 19.4'E) and the Landfall light (41° 15.35'S, 173° 16.80'E). These have been placed to keep them away from this shoal.

    Caution - Trees on Haulashore Island partially obscure the rear leading light from North.

    View pilot passage plan

  • Useful Marks

    Old Lighthouse: 41° 15.3'S, 173° 15.9'E

    Cement Silo: 41° 15.8'S, 173° 16.15'E

  • Kingsford Quay

    Upgraded in 2005 to 50 tonne axle loading.
    Located alongside our main log storage areas, ideal for log loading.
    Used for other break bulk and general cargoes.

    In the tables below we refer to Chart Datum. Chart Datum is the lowest expected tide level, on to which the tide gauge reading is added to give total depth at any time.

  • Entry

    Inner Leading lights: From a position 6 cables North West of the front light, the alignment (135 1/2°) of the lights leads through Main Entrance

    Front light (white triangle, point up) (41° 16.2'S, 173° 15.4'E)

    Rear light (white triangle, point down) (1 3/4 cables South East of front light).

    The dredged inner channel (The Cut) is 150 metres wide and passes between south mole which extends North West from Haulashore Island on the South West side of the channel and Boulder Bank on the North East side of the channel. When abeam No 1 beacon (41° 15.7'S, 173° 15.5'E) large vessels should commence turn to port passing South East of piles, from which lights are exhibited, marking the North West and North edge of the dredged channel.

    Haulashore Island turning marks: Front light (white diamond) 41° 15.9'S, 173° 15.5'E, rear light (white triangle) 1/2 cable West of front light. These mark a line through the centre of the turn. They should not be used as leads. They are of most use when outward bound.

  • Depth

    Controlling depth is 7.6m in the main inside harbour channel at chart datum, and 8.1m in the outer channel at chart datum. Chart datum is the lowest expected tide level, on to which the tide gauge reading is added to give total depth at any time.

  • Tides

    The normal duration of the ingoing and outgoing tidal streams is just over six hours but weather conditions may cause this to vary by more than an hour in either case.
    In general the streams follow the dredged channels except at the entrance where they flow across the entrance setting to the South when flooding and to the North when ebbing. At the entrance they can attain a rate of two knots at spring tides; in the harbour they may attain a rate of one to two knots. The streams may be weak for a short period at slack water.

    Eddies form continually off most berths, clockwise with an ingoing tidal stream and anticlockwise with an outgoing stream. They are caused by solid infill reclamation under the quays.

    Mean Tidal Levels:

    MHWS: 4.24m MHWN: 3.17m
    MLWS: 0.49m MLWN: 1.48m
    Spring Range: 3.75m
    Neap Range: 1.69m
    MSL: 2.35m

    Tide Tables






  • Port Nelson Entry and Departure Restrictions

    Maximum drafts are determined by the height of tide on the day concerned and minimum under keel clearance of 10% of draft while in the channel and minimum under keel clearance of 5% of draft while in the berth.

    Maximum Drafts in Channel and at Berth

    2014 - All Months

    2015 - All Months

    Vessels less than 130m LOA; may enter or depart at any state of the tide subject to draft and other shipping movements.

    Vessels more than 130m LOA; when the tidal range is 2.9m or less, vessels may enter or depart only on the flood tide, i.e. pilot on board from low water to one hour before high water.

    Vessels more than 130m LOA; when the tidal range is more than 2.9m: may enter or depart only on the first and last two hours of the flood tide. i.e. pilot on board from high water less 2 hours to high water less 1 hour. And pilot on board from low water to low water plus 1 hour. When berthing starboard side to Main Wharf, vessels must berth only on the very first or last of the ebb tide, i.e. pilot on board high water plus half hour or low water less 1.5 hours.

  • Pilotage & Tugs Requirements

    Pilotage is compulsory at Port Nelson for all vessels 40m LOA or more.

    Notice of ETA required is 24 hours, with confirmation by 1500 local time on the last working day before arrival.

    Pilotage charges: POA

  • Port Limits

    The seaward limit is the arc of a circle, radius 5 miles, centered on the eastern extremity of Rabbit Island (41° 17'S, 173° 12'E), as shown on the chart.

  • Entry Protocol

    Vessels of over 100 gross tonnes must contact Nelson Harbour Radio 30 minutes prior to entering, departing or shifting, for clearance and to supply vessel name, master's name, and vessel draught. Then remain on the working channel assigned until berthed or clear of the harbour. Pilotage Limit Is the arc of a circle radius 3 miles centered on Old Lighthouse (41° 15.3'S, 173° 15.9'E). as shown on the chart.

    Pilotage is compulsory for ALL vessels 40m LOA (length over all) or more.  The masters of vessels which call regularly and are less than 140m 6500 GRT, may sit a pilot exemption exam.
    Pilot boarding place is 3 1/4 miles north north west of Main Entrance; pilots embark and disembark via the 12m high-speed pilot launch the Waimea.

  • Largest Vessel

    Vessels up to the following dimensions routinely access the port:

    Length: 200m
    Breadth: 32.2m (Panamax)
    Draught: 9.8m

    For vessels of greater dimensions please contact the Marine Operation Manager.

  • Tugs

    Port Nelson has two tugs for towage for vessels entering and exiting the port.

    Huria Matenga has a bollard pull of 36 tonnes

    W H Parr has a bollard pull of 23.6 tonnes

    Port Nelson minimum tug recommendation:

    * Vessels less than 80m LOA: none
    * Vessels 80m to 130m LOA: 1 in, 1 out
    * Vessels 130m to 165m LOA: 2 in, 1 out
    * Vessels more than 165m LOA: 2 in, 2 out
    * Operational ship thrusters may reduce the number of tugs.

  • Ship Lines

    Port Nelson provides ship line handling services to all customers on request.

  • Berth Booking System

    Port Nelson operates a berth booking service through the Duty Pilot, for all berths.  Contact the Duty Pilot on Direct Dial: 64 3 5393 879.

  • Berth Booking Policy

    Please contact the Duty Pilot if you require any further information.

  • Nelson Harbour Radio

    See Admiralty List of Radio Signals Vol 6. The station provides an information service. Listening VHF 16, working VHF 12 and 14 manned, 24 hours a day.


    Duty Pilot
    Direct Dial: 64 3 5393 879
    E- mail: duty.pilot@portnelson.co.nz

  • Wharves

    Port Nelson operates a berth booking service through the Duty Pilot, for all berths.  Contact the Duty Pilot, Direct Dial 64 3 5393 879.

  • Main Wharf
    • South end (Finger pier) a heavy duty cargo berth (100 tonne axle weight) governed by PNL’s berth booking policy capable of being worked by the Liebherr Crane and associated heavy machinery.
    • Northern end is Nelson’s discharge point for petroleum products.
    • Heavy duty pad allows berthage of both starboard and portside to ro/ro vessels.
  • Roll On – Roll Off Facility
    • This facility is centrally placed for easy access of road freight vehicles - adjacent to Brunt Quay.
    • This heavy duty berth allows vessel to jointly load with cranes and the ro/ro ramp.
  • McGlashen Quay
    • Multi-purpose berth well sited for loading of general and break bulk cargoes.
    • Southern end contains a bitumen and methanol discharge facility.
  • Lay-up & Repair

    The port company has 3 lay-up berths, capable of taking vessels up to 110m. The draft is 8m at Lay-up berth No 1, 6.5m at Lay-up berth No 2 and 5.5m at Lay-up No 3. These berths are adjacent to a flat land area with covered storage, bunkering facilities and space for work vehicles and plant. In the marina area there are two cradle lifts and a travel lift for work on smaller vessels.  

    NameDepth at Chart DatumLine of WharfLength of WharfHeight Above Chart Datum
    Lay-up Berth No 1 8.0m 020/200 85m 5.7m
    Lay-up Berth No 2 7m 053/233 65m 5.7m
    Lay-up Berth No 3 (is between the berth fingers of Layup 1 and Layup 3) 6m 109/289 105m  

    Duty Pilot

    Direct dial: 64 3 539 3879
    E-mail: duty.pilot@portnelson.co.nz

  • Fishing & Independently Operated

    Port Nelson is Australasia’s largest fishing port. The deepwater fishing fleets of two of New Zealand's largest fishing companies, the Sealord Group and Talley’s are based at Port Nelson, and Nelson interests hold over half of New Zealand's sustainable catching rights. Port Nelson provides deep water berthage for large trawlers, with the reclamation a base for the many businesses that service the fishing industry, from net makers and container agents to abrasive blasters and ship builders and repairers.

    NameDepth at Chart DatumLine of WharfLength of WharfHeight Above Chart Datum
    McKellar Quay East (Sealord) 7.0m 109/289 129m 5.5m
    McKellar Quay Centre (Sealord) 6.0m 109/289 65m 5.5m
    McKellar Quay West (Sealord) 6.0m 109/289 50m 5.5m
    Dog Leg (Sanford Ltd) 3.5m 168/343 43m 5.5m
    Amaltal Fishing Company 7.0m (shallows to 4.5m at Northern end) 002/182 130m 5.5m
    Donker Marine 4.5m 110/290 70m 5.5m

    Warning:  Mariners are advised that in almost all instances the berth pocket depths are greater than the channel access depths, therefore careful consideration of the tide must be taken into account when arriving at, departing from or shifting berths.

  • Navigational Information - Brunt Quay

    Click links below to download required information: 

    Arrive Brunt Quay port side alongside

    Arrive Brunt Quay Starboard  

  • Navigational Information - Kingsford Quay
  • Brunt Quay
    • Brunt Quay a heavy duty cargo berth (80 tonne axle weight) governed by PNL’s berth booking policy.
    • This is our main heavy duty wharf capable of being worked by our two Liebherr cranes.
    • Close to the container yard and centrally placed for access to all port facilities.