Ship arrival system to reduce Newcastle coal queues

Port of Newcastle to trial vessel arrival system to reduce queuing off the coast

The Port of Newcastle will trial a new vessel arrival system in a bid to reduce the queue of ships waiting to be loaded.

Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi says it’s hoped the trial will reduce shipping costs and improve vessel safety, helping to avoid accidents like the grounding of the Pasha Bulker.

Phase one of the trial will see Newcastle Port Corporation (NPC) track the movement of vessels using satellite technology for 14 days prior to their arrival.

In stage two the port will use this information to program the vessels arrival based on its location, speed and performance during the trial.

The vessel will be given a recommended arrival time based on the loading date advised by the coal terminal, Port Waratah Coal Services. This will avoid the vessel having to ‘race’ to Newcastle.

The Port of Newcastle currently operates on a first-in, first-served basis known as a ‘turn of arrival’ system, which encourages vessels to travel as quickly as possible to be admitted to the queue.

"It’s hoped this new system will allow coal ships to better time their arrival at the port to avoid spending time at anchor off the coast," Tripodi says.

"With a typical vessel able to reduce its fuel consumption by 40 percent through a 20 percent reduction in speed, this makes sense from both an economic and environmental view."

Newcastle Port Corporation has opened consultation with the industry ahead of the three-month trial of stage one early next year. If successful, NPC will proceed to stage two and the voluntary slowing of vessel movements.

Tripodi says the vessel arrival system is one part of the Government’s response to recommendations from the New South Wales Maritime and Australian Transport Safety Bureau reports into the grounding of the Pasha Bulker.

Tripodi has also approved changes to the Port Safety Operating Licenses of each of the states major ports detailing their communications requirements.

"Each port will now be required to keep recording equipment, including backups, for port radio channels and to conduct regular reviews of port communications procedures," he says.

Newcastle Port Corporation Chief Executive Gary Webb says new software and hardware will be received over the next two weeks ahead of next year’s trial.

Tripodi insists the vessel arrival system was not an alternative to developing a long-term plan for managing coal exports from the Hunter.

The Government is continuing discussions with the coal industry to develop a framework which provides for future growth in coal exports and access for new entrants.

The coal industry needs to ensure the current $1.5 billion approved expansion of coal export capacity is delivered on time, the Minister says.

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