Ambitious Port of Newcastle to seek new leader

CEO Crowe leaves operator prods state government on container future

Ambitious Port of Newcastle to seek new leader
Geoff Crowe


Port of Newcastle CEO Geoff Crowe is to leave at the end of next month.

The announcement comes just after it made its pitch for a brighter container future to the New South Wales government.

"The Port of Newcastle is not only an iconic port that delivers huge economic value to our region and state as a trade gateway, it is also a valued asset for our industry and our community," Crowe says.

"We have a terrific team, and I am very proud of the contribution that we have made in the last three years for the Port and our region.

"As a Novocastrian, I will continue to take pride in the Port's growth."

News of the move arrives as controversy swirls around the government’s decision to effectively block its ability to compete for container traffic with Port Botany, made five years ago but now the subject of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examination.

The state is also in the midst of drafting a NSW Freight and Ports Plan, to which it has written a submission and released a Deloitte Access Economics report, NSW Container and Port Policy: Port of Newcastle.

The submission argues NSW is operating at less than optimum port capacity.

"Few Australian states have the competitive advantage of a globally significant seaport, with existing national rail and heavy vehicle road connections, which is only operating at 50% capacity," it states.

"The Port of Newcastle, therefore, is a strategic advantage for the NSW Government, importers and exporters and the broader community.

"The rapidly changing freight landscape, disrupted by the ‘Amazon effect’, and congestion around fast growing cities, needs every piece of existing port, road and rail infrastructure to be utilised effectively."

On the container side, the port company argues for a longer term view.

"By providing a level playing field for a Newcastle container terminal, the NSW Government can leverage the capacity that already exists within the Port of Newcastle and its existing road and rail supply chains, and save billions which can be invested in other priority projects for the State," the submission says.

"The Freight and Ports Plan needs to be written for today’s private sector context. In particular, it needs to reference the key opportunities identified in Port of Newcastle’s 20 year Master Plan."

This year, the Port of Newcastle will publish the plan that will outline its key economic development opportunities including:

  • a Newcastle Container Terminal
  • an automotive and ro-ro hub
  • expanded ship and small vessel repair facilities within the Maritime Precinct at Carrington
  • construction of a Cruise Terminal at Carrington
  • construction of the Newcastle Bulk Terminal at Walsh Point
  • continuation and growth of existing large bulk trades including coal, fuel, fertiliser, wheat and mineral concentrates across the port’s precincts

"Port of Newcastle would appreciate the NSW Government providing a level playing field so that it can compete for container trade with other privately owned ports in NSW and Queensland," Crowe says in the foreword.

"NSW exporters and importers could then choose the most efficient supply chain for their cargo. This would also result in substantial cost savings for the NSW Government.

"Port of Newcastle would be very supportive of a dedicated TfNSW [Transport for NSW] resource for the Port of Newcastle, comparable with services provided to Port Botany and Port Kembla, to ensure that Government and industry remain aligned in meeting the growing NSW freight task."

Deloitte’s report argues Newcastle port expansion would aid the state’s present $3 billion decongestion task congestion reduction in and around Sydney and estimating truck transport savings at $16.2 million for cargo to and from the north of the state.

In critiquing the draft plan, Deloitte states that it ignores several important considerations:

  • the current and future volume of freight moving into and out of Northern NSW is significant and is comparable to total throughput seen at some of Australia's ports. Moving this freight through Port of Newcastle would keep it out of Sydney reducing transport costs and potentially delaying the need to expand the freight network
  • the draft freight and ports plan does not contemplate utilising the existing capacity within the Port of Newcastle and its road and rail connections in meeting the container freight task. Therefore, the current plan may result in inefficient outcomes and unnecessary investment
  • focusing on Port Kembla alone doesn't integrate with broader NSW government plans for regional development. By diversifying port freight across the state and reducing supply chain costs for producers and consumers, the NSW Government could enhance current ‘economic engine’ industries across NSW, boost regional economic development and industrial diversity
  • a more competitive port industry in NSW would create benefits in terms of reduced freight costs, fewer transport externalities and greater port and stevedore productivity which would flow through to the broader economy.

The submission and the report can be found here.


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