Port plays accelerate in Victoria and SA

Port of Hastings Authority up for vote, as miners eye new outlets in Spencer Gulf

By Rob McKay | June 1, 2011

An independent Port of Hastings Development Authority is now on the Victorian Government’s legislative agenda.

The state Coalition promised before last year’s election that it would cut the creation of Victoria’s planned second container port from Port of Melbourne Corporation’s control.

"This development is essential for the long-term economic viability of our state and the Coalition Government is committed to fast-tracking the Port of Hastings project, with completion expected in 10 to 15 years," Ports Minister Dennis Napthine says.

Napthine cites the need for swift action to deal with projected heavy congestion for the move.

While the previous government had acknowledged the need for the port to take contaners, it had viewed it more as overflow facility for the port of Melbourne.

And though the present government says Hastings will not mean the Melbourne port will be run down, housing development plans on the southern bank announced early in its term served to raise suspicion that operations would become secondary to Hastings eventually, if not moved out entirely.

The previous govenrment had also appeared to lack urgency, leading logistics industry observers to wonder if it was concerned at the cost, put at as much as $12.4 billion over 20 years and close to $10 billion over 10 years.

It will need nearly $6 million of that spent on roads.

Rail links and improvements will also have to be undertaken.

"With the number of containers being shipped in Victoria expected to rise from just over two million to eight million by 2035, the Coalition Government has always looked at the development of the Hastings port as a priority," he says.

He also points to the logistics benefits the new container port will have for Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs.

"All container traffic is currently handled at the Port of Melbourne and volumes are estimated to quadruple over the next 30 years," Dr Napthine said.

"We need to start work now on establishing a second port to relieve the forecast congestion and ensure Victoria's continued economic success.

"Hastings is already an operating port and is well-placed to be Victoria's second container port, with its existing deep water access and extensive supply of port-zoned land."

The move comes as developments on the commodities port front in South Australia gather pace.

The state has been the scene of competing demands for outlets in the Spencer Gulf.

The latest to enter the fray is mining company Carpentaria Exploration, which is part of the newly formed Braemar Iron Alliance consortium that is eyeing one between Wallaroo and Port Pirie for iron ore exports from deposits near Broken Hill.

The mode of transport is envisaged as rail or slurry pipe to fill capsize ships anchored off the "knee" of the Yorke Peninsula.

The consortium does not expect to own the "common user" port, which could also load grain.

Meanwhile, the state government has released an environmental impact statement on the proposed new facility at Port Bonython, near Whyalla, also for iron ore.

This development is the focus of acute environmental concerns due to giant cuttlefish breeding grounds in the area.

There is also interest in Lucky Bay, also in the upper Spencer Gulf but further south.

Further south still, near Port Lincoln, Centrex Metals still has for three years had high hopes for developing its own port between Port Neill and Tumby Bay.

Its preference remains for Sheep Hill.

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