Tasports ditches big projects and puts faith in organic growth

Government port operator looks to long-tern trends and supply chain realities for strategy

Tasports ditches big projects and puts faith in organic growth
Rene Hidding highlights the Burnie Port Optimisation Project.


Tasmanian ports operator Tasports has consigned to history the consolidation policy that informed thinking in the past.

The idea of picking a winner and directing resources at it has been rejected following a review then-new infrastructure minister Rene Hidding promised 18 months ago.

The review has resulted in the Tasports 2043 report which backs the status quo of existing ports and the variety of roles they are suited to.

"This has created a vision for the strategic development of Tasmania’s port system and takes a long term view of state-wide freight activities, related logistics and market trends to guide our port development," Tasports chairman Dan Norton says.

Tasports says economic and trade realities inform the outcome and fail to support a need for significant capacity growth.

"A multi-port system is a more cost-effective and flexible strategy that recognises the role of ports in supporting regional economies," the ABC quotes Tasports CEO Paul Weedon as saying.

"It also provides for low-cost and incremental reconfiguration of port infrastructure based on customer needs instead of a 'big bang' approach to port planning."

Its analysis is that total import and export freight through the Tasmanian ports in 2012/13 of 11 million tonnes is forecast to grow by 54 per cent to 17 million tonnes per annum by 2043.

"Although this appears to be a significant increase, this volume is only marginally higher than the 2007/08 financial year, which saw 16.2 million tonnes through the ports," the report states.

"This tells us that our current port system already has the capacity to service the forecast freight volumes of 2043."

Agriculture and agricultural products are expected to see most growth, with an import growth of 40 per cent forecast in the period.

"The factors that influence ship size are typically the small cargo parcel sizes, diversity of commodity and the requirement for low supply-chain costs, which rely on the proximity of major industries to ports that often serve as ‘natural gateways’," the report states.

"As these factors are expected to remain relatively unchanged over the next 30 years, the future size and configuration of vessels will not impact the port strategy."

Meanwhile, Tasports 2014-15 annual reports notes freight volumes increased from 12.6 million tonnes to 12.8 million tonnes in the past financial year.

The government enterprise recorded an operating loss of $8.5 million in 2014−15 compared to a loss of $169,000 in 2013-14.

"While the operating loss was greater than that for the previous year, it remained broadly in line with expectations and was attributed to that increased expenditure on maintenance and infrastructure upgrades," Hidding says.

Tasmania’s largest maintenance dredging project in the past 10 years was completed at the Port of Devonport.

"This $6.7 million project was essential to restoring and maintaining safe navigational access for port customers, including TT-Line, SeaRoad and Cement Australia," Hidding says.

He notes the $12 million Burnie Port Optimisation Project began in 2014-15, and is funded jointly by Tasports, Toll and TasRail, in addition to Tasmanian and federal government support.

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