Queensland assesses supply chain impact of Yasi

Just one life has been lost and one person is missing in the wake of Cyclone Yasi, but the damage to supply chain infrastructure must still be reckoned with

Queensland assesses supply chain impact of Yasi
Queensland assesses supply chain impact of Yasi

By Anna Game-Lopata | February 4, 2011

Just one life has been lost and one person is missing in the wake of Cyclone Yasi, but the damage to infrastructure must still be reckoned with.

As the wind and rain dissipates in Townsville, port and industry
people are surveying the damage.

About 85 percent of Townsville residents are still without power, phone coverage is sporadic and water supplies have been cut.

Despite this, the Port of Townsville has re-opened, functioning on generator power.

Staff at the Port is currently in the process of cleaning up, but early indications are that structural damage is minimal.

However, how soon customers and stakeholders can return to normal business is yet to be determined.

Xstrata Copper General Manager Port and Logistics Mark Roberts was on site today undertaking risk assessment procedures when contacted by SupplyChain Review.

He says the first, most essential task is to ensure the Port is safe for workers including removing loose objects and other debris.

Pending a formal statement, Roberts was unprepared to provide an estimate of the damage to network infrastructure at the port and refinery crucial to Xstrata Copper’s operations.

However, the fact that the Cyclone missed Mt Isa is good news. Roberts says though it’s premature to say with certainty at this stage, he thinks damage might be superficial.

Soon after Yasi passed over the North Queensland coast, leading rail freight haulage operator QR National started assessing its rail network and other assets in areas affected.

In a statement, the company said inspections commenced as soon as authorities deemed it safe.

Ahead of the Cyclone, the company closed the Newlands and Goonyella coal rail networks, freight train services that travel the east coast, and also north west to Mount Isa and the North Coast line between Rockhampton and Cairns.

QR National now advises that rail services have resumed on the Goonyella coal network and are expected to resume on the Newlands network today, 4 February.

"Freight services continue to be suspended on the North Coast line between Rockhampton and Cairns and the North West Line between Townsville and Mount Isa," the company says.

"This is pending detailed assessment of these sections of track by the infrastructure owner, Queensland Rail.

"The Blackwater and Moura coal rail networks are unaffected and continue to operate."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh yesterday warned that road networks in the region were still dangerous, with closures expected to remain in place for some time.

"People should be avoiding any unnecessary travel," she told reporters.

"In Townsville there’s already some equipment out clearing trees off the main highway," Bligh adds. "So in good old north Queensland style the cleanup has started as soon as it could."

"We do still have a lot of flooding around in some part of north Queensland," she says.

"Ingham is bracing for another flood and we expect to see potentially more flooding here around the northern Townsville area."

A spokesperson for Queensland Transport and Main Roads says the department is working with the defence force, police and emergency services in an intergrated effort to re-supply Cyclone-affected areas.

"A major achievement was to clear the Bruce highway between Mackay and Townsville this morning," the spokesperson says. "Police and army convoys of supplies were sent to
the most badly affected towns as a result."

The Department is currently assessing the road between Ingham and Tully.

"Realistically this part of the network may take a further
24 hours to clear as the job is being hampered by fallen trees, powerlines and flood waters," the spokesperson says.

Meanwhile the department is using any avenues possible to send food and emergency supplies through, including shipping via the now open Ports at Mackay and Hay Point and Cairns airport.

The North Queensland agricultural industry has been devastated by the storm which is sure to impact related transport and export operations along the supply chain in coming months.

Early indications suggest losses to the sugarcane industry will be upwards of $500 million.

Thirty percent of Australia’s sugarcane crop is grown north of Townsville contributing $1.95B value to the north Queensland economy.

Revised estimates from the National Farmers Federation show that 95 percent of banana crops have been lost in Innisfail and Tully, towns directly hit by the Cyclone.

Twenty per cent crops of Atherton Tablelands banana crops and 80 percent of those in the Kennedy region south of Cardwell, also one of the worst hit, have also gone.

Tully and Innisfail alone represent about 85 percent of the $400 million banana industry.

According to NFF spokesperson Brett Heffernan, projected losses from Cyclone Yasi do not include likely damage to machinery, roads, rail, houses, mills and ports.

Aside from sugar and bananas, the region also ranks highly for the production of watermelons, mangoes, lychees, macadamia nuts and strawberries.

It is also a huge vegetable growing area, but the NFF, using data from its members, does not expect huge crop losses as summer is not the growing season.

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