Asciano floats radical new ports plan

Asciano will be a big winner if its submission to the Victorian Government’s consultation on the port of Melbourne’s future is taken up in its entirety

By Rob McKay | September 6, 2010

Asciano will be a big winner if its submission to the Victorian Government’s consultation on the port of Melbourne’s future is taken up in its entirety.

The main thrust is the scrapping of the Webb Dock container expansion in favour of a $200 million expansion of the existing Swanson Dock container terminals and relocation of the port altogether to Hastings and Geelong by 2040.

While Hastings has been the focus of long-term plans to take over a major percentage of the increasing throughput load of the port of Melbourne for many years, what is new is the idea that the port of Geelong has a new container terminal instead of Webb Dock, thereby saving views of the city from Williamstown from being obscured by container cranes.

New also is Asciano’s idea that Geelong be expanded before Hastings.

The ports and rail firm’s Patrick Ports arm operates both Geelong and Hastings.

Asciano says the only extra costs involved would be $360 million in dredging the approach channels to Geelong and building the dock between 2015 and 2020. On its costings, this would add 1 million teu a year in capacity, possibly rising to 2.5 million, as opposed to the 1 million teu, possibly rising to 4 million teu a year, for $1.3bn of Webb Dock.

It costed Hastings at $11 billion over 10 years for an ultimate capacity of 8 million teu a year.

It says there are already buffer areas to the residential areas and that the container terminal would have easy access to road and rail links.

Greater Melbourne container volumes are expected to more than double by 2025 to 4.47 million teu.

Possibly in Asciano’s favour, therefore, is that the Port of Melbourne Corporation discussion paper’s ‘guiding principles’ include that capacity options "need to consider social, safety and environmental impacts" and "certainty of capacity to meet demand and support the sustainable growth of trade through the port".

A Port of Melbourne Corporation spokesman says Asciano’s is one of a number of submissions from industry expected after Ports Minister Tim Pallas sought more consultations on container capacity after seemingly having given the green light to the Webb Dock expansion and other long-term plans when releasing the Port Development Strategy-2035 Vision just 10 months earlier.

The cut-off date for submissions is September 30 and those from DP World, P&O Trans Australia and Westgate Ports are due to be released in the coming weeks.

It has been a busy past few days for Asciano, with the company joining bidders for a $100 million a year Western Australian grain transport deal and luring Chief Financial Officer Angus McKay from Foster’s.

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