COAG advances National Ports Strategy

Albanese highlights industry support for infrastructure development

COAG advances National Ports Strategy
COAG advances National Ports Strategy

By Rob McKay | February 14, 2011

Australia’s need for a national ports strategy was endorsed by the nation’s top-level governments yesterday.

The strategy was to be "an integral part of the national freight strategy that is under development", the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) stated.

"It will improve productivity, promote better long-term planning around ports and bring a greater focus on performance to Australia’s waterfronts," COAG said.

COAG has asked the relevant Ministerial Council to complete an implementation plan for a final national ports strategy by August for out-of-session endorsement by COAG.

The COAG communiqué was preceded by opinion pieces in two major city dailies from Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese in which he reiterated the arguments for national planning for port and port-related infrastructure, emphasising that they were too important to be left in local government hands, and for national transport and maritime regulation.

He highlighted the expected trade growth with China and India, expected to be 170 per cent and 140 per cent respectively by 2030.

"The costs of building the infrastructure to cope with this increased activity - the additional terminals, the freight and handling facilities, the deepening of harbours - is massive," he said in The Australian, spruiking the strategy’s broad support in the business community.

"Investors will not commit to this if there is uncertainty at these pressure points."

The Chief Executive of ports peak body Ports Australia, David Anderson, last week said that his organisation had been working with the Government and its lead agencies Infrastructure Australia and the National Transport Commission on the strategy to better equip the ports community to effectively address the considerable trade growth in prospect.

"The high growth rates predicted in both our container and bulk trades means that it is most timely for governments to elevate better port planning and regulation on the political and public policy agenda," he said.

He noted that a number of reports, including a landmark report prepared by the Australian Parliament, have indicated that unless these matters were addressed "with resolve", our national trade performance stands to be significantly compromised.

"The National Ports Strategy is based on the simple but effective premise that our ports will develop long term plans that will be out there for all stakeholders to view and own and that this approach will drive processes to ensure that port land and its associated freight precincts and road and rail corridors are appropriately developed and protected," he said.

Mr Anderson added that the National Ports Strategy would promote improved coordination in land use which in turn should result in the more effective management of community impacts of port activity.

"An essential element of the strategy was the provision of simpler regulation and approvals processes so that additional capacity to meet the growth in the national trade task by way of new terminals, berths and channels can be planned with certainty," he said.

"These processes have become more complex, more expensive and more capricious in their administration and now pose a serious threat to our international competitiveness."

Meanwhile, the communiqué also said that COAG had agreed that the Australian Transport Council will finalise arrangements for a national maritime safety regulator that will ensure that all owners, operators and builders of commercial vessels face the same regulatory arrangements.

There was no mention of road freight in the communiqué, though Albanese did raise the issue of fragmented roads regulation in the Sunday Canberra Tiimes.

The example used, of the challenge facing winery McGuigan Simeon’s western New South Wales and Victoria grape supply chain, had been put forward in the Australian Logistics Council’s 2008 report, The cost impact of regulation in cross border region.

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