Pay up for infrastructure upgrades, port boss says

Threat of higher access charges to fund upgrades, port chief warns; supply chain 'unprepared for growth'

By Brad Gardner | September 17, 2009

Port users across the country will have to pay more for access to fund infrastructure upgrades, the Port of Brisbane's chief says, amid warnings landside logistics networks are ill-prepared for projected explosive growth in the freight task.

Port of Brisbane Chief Executive Jeff Coleman says too many operators want port infrastructure investment without being charged for it.

In a keynote speech to the AusIntermodal conference in Brisbane, Coleman told attendees ports are commercial entities and those who use them should not view facilities as social infrastructure.

Citing billion-dollar investments at Sydney's Port Botany and the Port of Melbourne, Coleman says those who want improvements without the price tag are advocating an unsustainable business model.

He says port authorities need to develop "a very robust commercial model" capable of recouping infrastructure costs, which he says have jumped considerably over the last five years.

"The user-pays principle must apply," Coleman says. "If they don't pay for it who will?"

Coleman also told the conference all parties in the supply chain need to lift their productivity.

While there is a strong focus on whether ports can meet the projected growth in the freight task, Coleman argues logistics operators have not considered their capacity to cope with demand.

"I don't think we get what another million containers will mean for Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne," he says.

"The focus on freight needs to be on the whole supply chain."

Coleman used his speech to call for a "strong national debate" on how growth can be managed, saying any weak link in the supply chain will cause problems.

"Everybody in the supply chain needs to become more productive," he says.

Part of the solution, Coleman says, lies in making greater use of port infrastructure during off-peak periods. Many operators want to work between 7am and 5pm.

"The whole supply chain needs to look at working longer hours and weekends," he says.

During his speech, Coleman also detailed the current projects at the Port of Brisbane's Fisherman's Island facility and plans to build the new West Port by 2015 to focus on general as well as automotive cargo.

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