Spectrum of opinion supports delay in Kwinana port

By: Rob McKay

Transport industry joins MUA, council and fishing interests against ‘premature’ build

Spectrum of opinion supports delay in Kwinana port
The view from the Fremantle Town Hall stage


One of the key planks supporting rejection of freight route upgrades like Roe 8 to the port of Fremantle, the looming need to build of a new container port at Kwinana, is being rebuffed in Western Australia.

Fremantle is one of two major ports in the country facing urban encroachment pressures, the other being Melbourne, where debate on when and where a new facility should be built has been ongoing for more than a decade.

So, the emergence of serious opposition to progressing Kwinana at what is argued is a premature stage is likely to be viewed with great interest in Victoria.

Proponents of the alternative view, who conducted a public meeting in at Fremantle Town Hall last night that reportedly attracted 600 people, include the Maritime Union of Australia’s WA branch (MUA WA), the City of Fremantle council and fishing interests, with points also being raised by freight lobby the Western Roads Federation (WRF).

"Last night a packed Fremantle Town Hall heard calls from Fremantle mayor, fishing groups, industry and unions to keep the Fremantle inner harbour as a working port," WRF has tweeted. 

"WRF members were consulted and agreed to the position we presented at the meeting."

The WA body thanked the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) for its assistance in developing a response.

The project and its timing will be influenced by findings of the state transport department’s Westport Taskforce, tasked with delivering a "long-term supply chain strategy to optimise freight, trade and logistics needs from Fremantle and Kwinana to Bunbury".

Having completed its preliminary investigations, the Westport Taskforce is about to start formulating ideas on how Perth’s port and trade task might be handled over the next 50 to 100 years.

The final Westport: Port and Environs Strategy is scheduled to be presented to the transport, planning and lands minister late next year, with a preliminary report due this October.

MUA WA deputy branch secretary Adrian Evans tells ATN that in attendance were taskforce members who said the meeting had "given us a lot to think about".

Insisting early construction must be opposed even if the state Labor government backs it, the MUA WA argues that a recent state Treasury report backs the idea that the $5-6 billion facility need not be built now.

The union quotes an extract as saying: "Suggestions that container trade in the Inner Harbour should be capped or relocated are flawed as it will bring forward the outer harbour container terminal development which is not economically responsible."

Read about the other WA freight strategy exercise, here

It insists present Fremantle facilities are underutilised, with a capacity ceiling unlikely before 2040, and any cap will cause redundancies and cost of living impacts.

"Volume at Fremantle has been falling for some time now as our members are acutely aware," the union told members recently.

"DPW has a vessel two days a week and even Patrick with its 75 per cent market share has days with no vessels alongside.

"Fremantle Port has abundant capacity that will see us through the medium term without costly duplication.

"The Port must be allowed to grow to its natural capacity before building the outer harbour.

"The MUA supports the long term vision to build an overflow Port in Kwinana, but only when it is needed."

It adds that if building began now, "at least 20 years before it is needed, the compound interest alone will add over $10 billion to the construction cost making it a $15-16 billion dud decision that will not only be a debt we don’t need but also cause a dramatic increase to freight costs which will be passed on to the community".

Fremantle council said last week it has reaffirmed its position that Fremantle’s inner harbour should be retained as an operating port, primarily focused on container freight handling at North Quay.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says that with the taskforce’s work entering a critical phase, it was important for the council to make its position clear.

"The employment and activity associated with the operations of the inner harbour are a critical component of the Fremantle region’s economy," Pettitt says.

"While we recognise the need for an expanded role for the outer harbour at Kwinana, the council is very firm in its view that the inner harbour should be retained as a working port.

"Container handling should be maintained at North Quay, provided the associated land side transport arrangements have no greater impact on the local community than current port operations.

"To achieve this, the council considers the viable level of operations is likely to be in the range of 700,000 to 1 million container units per year.

"Victoria Quay should also be progressively developed for community, tourism and commercial uses – in particular with improved facilities for cruise ship passengers.

"To facilitate this car imports and other freight shipments coming through Victoria Quay should be transferred to another location as soon as possible."


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