Flood-battered industry braces for Yasi

Ports from Cairns to Mackay will be closed from late today as high category four Cyclone Yasi approaches the north Queensland coast

Flood-battered industry braces for Yasi
Flood-battered industry braces for Yasi

By Anna Game-Lopata | February 1, 2011

Ports from Cairns to Mackay will be closed from late today as high category four Cyclone Yasi approaches the north Queensland coast.

Authorities across the region have ordered infrastructure to be locked down and secured as much as possible.

The Ports of Townsville and Lucinda, along with those of Cape Flattery, Cooktown, Cairns and Mourilyan have been moved to a Yellow Alert by Maritime Safety Queensland ahead the severe tropical cyclone touted to be one of Queensland’s worst.

All vessel owners in the Fishermen’s Bases, Marina and on pile moorings in the Ports of Cairns and Mourilyan have been advised to evacuate to cyclone moorings from early this morning.

"Port users and small craft owners in the areas of Townsville and Lucinda should undertake preparations to ensure their property is appropriately protected should TC Yasi cross the Queensland coast," the Port says in a statement.

In Townsville today, port workers are rushing to fulfil Condition Yellow contingency plans including minimising cargo at all wharves and hinterland stockpiles within the port area, implementing tie-down plans, securing the buildings and clearing debris.

"Non-essential people are leaving the port area and we are preparing for full evacuation," a spokesperson tells SupplyChain Review. "The Port will be completely shut down tomorrow."

The Ports of Townsville and Lucinda will remain at condition yellow until further notice.

In Gladstone, where the flood clean-up process has barely finished, the Port Corporation is on daily watch.

Staff have been instructed to ensure all loose objects are secured while Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL)
has activated the clean up phase of its cyclone procedures that involves removal or tie down of objects.

Despite this, the coal port is still open in Gladstone, with seven ships due to be loaded. About 50 bulk coal carriers anchored off the Dalrymple Bay terminal near Mackay put to sea to ride out the cyclone.

Coal terminals have shut down at Bowen and Mackay, and ships queuing to be loaded
have scattered, delivering another blow to the nation's biggest single export earner.

A particular concern for the Queensland government is Abbot Point coal terminal, near Bowen, which is on the market for $1.5 billion as part of the state's privatisation program. Any damage to the port could undermine this process.

Flooding that has claimed more than 40 lives to date - at least 22 of them in Brisbane. The Queensland Resources Council says associated costs may amount to up to $8 billion in losses to the coal industry alone.

While in Bowen, the damage inflicted by Cyclone Anthony on Sunday was fairly minor- fallen powerlines, uprooted trees, and sunken boats, the havoc expected to be caused by Yasi could be much greater.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says Yasi might be one of the largest ever seen in Queensland.

"We expect to see this event become a significant rainfall event in areas to the south and surrounding where it crosses the coast," Bligh told reporters in a briefing yesterday.

"That means we can expect very significant rainfall, in some cases, up to a metre into catchments that are already very saturated."

Cyclone Yasi is expected to cross the area between Innisfail and Mackay.

"We are taking precautions from as far north as Cook Town, to as far south as Maryborough, but particularly the region that we are focusing on the most is the area between Innisfail and Mackay," Bligh says.

"We expect to see gales in that Innisfail to Mackay region of more than a hundred kilometres an hour, by mid morning on Wednesday.

"That means that we need to be making as many preparations as possible in that region in the next thirty six hours."

Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan says Bureau of Meteorology modelling shows the cyclone will cross the Queensland coast on Wednesday night or early Thursday bringing damaging winds and heavy rainfall.

"Cyclone contingency plans for the Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg regions could be found on the Maritime Safety Queensland website," she says.

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