Industry wants more detail on port plans

Government plans to move Victoria's car imports and exports from Melbourne to the Port of Geelong met with scepticism

By Ruza Zivkusic | February 4, 2010

The Victoria Government’s plans to move the state’s car imports and exports from Melbourne to the Port of Geelong has been met with scepticism.

Ports Minister Dr Denis Napthine announced a feasibility study at the Port of Geelong, saying Geelong is suitable to handle the car trade that is currently conducted through the Port of Melbourne.

The move would ease the pressure on land availability at Port of Melbourne and would relieve congestion in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Napthine says.

It would also create up to 1,000 jobs in the Geelong region and provide an additional $200 million in output to the local economy.

Australian Amalgamated Terminals (AAT) CEO Craig Faulkner believes the facilities that AAT lease from the Port of Melbourne have room to expand to handle the automotive trade.

"I think things need to be fleshed out through the process of the feasibility study- it’s all hypothetical at the moment. All of the factors need to be taken into account," Faulkner says.

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) Deputy CEO Neil Chambers urges the government to consider the inland transport task.

"A lot of free-dealer delivery is done on the vehicles at the point of discharge or very near those facilities. It’s about how you re-jiggle all those operations including free delivery work as well as the final distribution to the dealerships," Chambers says.

"The study needs to look at road distribution patterns and whether that contributes to congestion or helps alleviate congestion. Does it add a significant transport cost to the bottom line of manufacturers and wholesale retailers and what’s the impact on the car carriers who are involved in the trade?"

Up to 375,000 new vehicles were carried on 320 carrier vessels through the Port of Melbourne in the 2010 financial year. Some 125,000 motor vehicles valued at $1.7 billion that were built in Victoria were exported during the same period.

An anti-truck group in Melbourne’s western suburbs believes the move will do little to ease congestion on Footscray’s streets. Residents have been lobbying for trucks to be taken off the roads in Footscray.

"Anything that eases congestion in inner west is good but most of the traffic that we have is in containers going to and from container yards," Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) President Peter Knight says.

"If they’re trying to make it out like it’s a proper solution to problems in the inner west then that’s obviously not the case. The only solution is the Truck Action Plan and the ramps from the Westgate to the Port of Melbourne. The government needs to step up and continue with this project full speed ahead," Knight says.

Much of the state’s bulk cargo including grain, woodchips and petroleum products were handled at the Port of Geelong, Napthine says.

He says the port is a major driver of the local and state economy, with room to expand.

"Increased trade through Geelong would deliver significant benefits to the local economy and to the people of Geelong," Napthine says.

He blames the previous government for failing to deliver a rail link to Lascelles Wharf despite promising it in 2002.

"The Baillieu Government will work with the Port of Geelong to help achieve a 130 percent growth in trade by 2030 and deliver key infrastructure improvements to cater for this increased rate," Napthine says.

The study will include planning of adequate depth and maintenance of shipping channels as well as covering the upgrade of all necessary transport links to the Port of Geelong, he says.

It will be undertaken by the Department of Transport in close consultation with the Geelong and Melbourne ports, car importers and exporters, shipping lines, local councils and regional bodies.

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