Train delivery puts Newcastle container rail potential on display

By: Rob McKay

Promise of contested deepwater container terminal given real-world display

Train delivery puts Newcastle container rail potential on display
The imported passenger train being placed directly on the quay-side tracks


Port of Newcastle (PON)  has shown off some early fruits of its diversification efforts with the unloading directly to rail of imported passenger rail rolling stock – one with implications for the proposed $1.8 billion Newcastle Container Terminal (NCT) and thereby landside container haulage in the region..

PON points to it being the nation’s only deepwater port with direct rail interface as an argument for the lifting of a NSW government container-numbers penalty on the NCT, which is the centrepiece of PON’s Multi-purpose Deepwater Terminal (MDT) project.

This penalty, which the NSW government relied on to get the top price for its port privatisation, is currently the focus of sometimes secret Federal Court proceedings begun by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

"The Mayfield site has the capacity for a 2 million TEU per annum container terminal, coupled with a shipping channel that can accommodate vessels up to 10,000 TEU, with the capability of even larger vessels with some ancillary channel modifications," PON says.

PON argues that the trend to international container shipping lines running bigger ships with a capacity of around 10,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent unit of shipping containers) – many still run at half that capacity – means deepwater ports will be needed increasingly and that Newcastle’s rail links to the national network will have an efficiency dividend for exporters and importers.

NSW Ports welcomed in June the 10,662 TEU capacity containership Ural and has handled two 9,500 TEU ships early last year with the expectation of more.

PON highlights a Deloitte Access Economics report last year that found the port’s catchment area presently generates 500,000 full TEU annually, many of which will also be trucked to and from the port.

The report states that 27 per cent of the state’s import TEU at 364,600, and 43 per cent of export TEU, at 210,747 relate to this catchment for a total of 575,346.

Port Botany throughput is 1,072,892.

PON is currently unable to give ATN more detail to the figures, as what it will be possible to build is unclear, but CEO Craig Carmody told state parliament’s Public Works Committee 18 months ago that the division between trucked and railed containers NCT might handle would be 50-50.

So, though not all catchment containers would necessarily go through NCT, it is conceivable that around 200,000 a year will need trucks to take them to and from the terminal, if PON gets all it hopes to.

Read about Port of Newcastle’s recruitment spree, here

At the end of last month, the NSW Nationals opted to support the removal of obstacles preventing the development of a new privately-funded container terminal.

"This is further recognition of the significant economic and productivity opportunities ready to be unlocked for internationally-trading businesses throughout the state," Carmody says.

"The Newcastle Container Terminal – an estimated $1.8 billion development to be entirely funded by private investors – will deliver more jobs in regional NSW, a reduction in unnecessary road and rail movements in and out of Sydney, and cheaper freight costs for importers and exporters across the state."

PON quotes NSW Nationals Moree branch chairman Brendan Moylan as welcoming the party’s recognition of the need for growers across the state to have access to the most efficient supply chain in order to be competitive in international markets.

"Growers estimate that the cost of shipping grains and pulses such as chickpeas would fall by as much as $20 per tonne if they were exported via container from Newcastle rather than Brisbane," Moylan says.

"Over a decade, that translates to about $500 million of economic benefit to north-west NSW alone."

For the oversize rolling stock transport task, the  port will see 15 such train deliveries in eight months, for Transport NSW’s Sydney Growth Trains (SGT) Project Stage 2 project.


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