Infrastructure Australia scrutinises East Coast container port deficiencies

Infrastructure Australia scrutinises East Coast container port deficiencies
2020 Container ship orders

Infrastructure Australia has prioritised the development of suitable East Coast deepwater container port facilities in order to accommodate large ships that are currently unable to visit due to port constraints.

The CEO of the Port of Newcastle, Craig Carmody, supported the independent infrastructure advisor’s identification of a major deficiency in the nation’s preparedness for ever-larger ships, noting problems on both the wharf side and landside.

He said: “The data is clear – shipping lines around the world have stopped building the ships that Australia’s ports are designed to accommodate.”

Infrastructure Australia noted that no Australian port can accommodate the larger, more energy-efficient ships that carry more than 14,000 teu but Carmody explained that it was critical to examine the constraints to existing road and rail infrastructure as well.

“Australia is left unable to reap the benefits of potential cost reductions and efficiency opportunities across the supply chain because its ports are designed for ships that peaked in popularity at a time when Cathy Freeman was winning the Sydney 400 m and the Y2K bug was the biggest threat to their operation.

“The world has moved on – ports overseas are now handling ships of more than 20,000 teu at a time when Australia’s ports celebrate inefficiently accommodating a ship less than half that size, in some cases having to turn the ship around at the berth to reach containers stacked on the opposite side.”

The country moves 98% of its international trade by sea and so not being able to keep up with global trends can really hurt Australia’s competitiveness.

Infrastructure Australia is set to examine the issue, including understanding the challenge of channel deepening at existing ports, development of new port locations and enhanced landside access infrastructure at ports.

The advisor has also flagged the need to examine the option of developing a “container port facility that can accommodate the largest ships as a transhipment port for other destinations within Australia”.

The Port of Newcastle has been advocating for the construction of its new 2m teu container terminal, which is currently hindered by a AU$100 (US$65) per teu penalty.

Carmody said: “We continue to pursue productive discussions with all levels of government to achieve an outcome that unlocks AU$2bn (US$1.297bn) of private investment in New South Wales (NSW) and spawns the significant associated economic benefits for our state.

“We need to get on with building this infrastructure to ensure Australia does not remain caught in an international competitiveness time-warp and so the Hunter region and its port can diversify.”