Author: Mick Payze
THE debate over NSW’s desperate need for the substantial expansion of container handling facilities at Newcastle continues, but the time for talk is over.
The real work must begin.
Those in doubt should read the Sydney Ports Corporation’s website, which states: “The closer economic integration of Australia with the rest of the world has seen greater trade flows develop over the past 20 years. These trade flows have been supported by an increase in the use of containers as the means of exporting and importing commodities and manufactured goods.
“A number of indicators suggest supporting the future freight task will pose significant challenges.
“Container volumes at Port Botany are anticipated to increase to over 3 million within 10 years, with significant investment required to cater for this growth.
“The volume of interstate general freight in Australia is forecast to double over the next 20 years.
“Continued growth in population and economic activity also means that increases in freight movements are inevitable.”
Sydney port is already struggling to cope with fewer than 2 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units or containers) a year; its main Achilles heel being the land-side capacity to handle the resultant traffic and the absolute congestion on the road and rail routes servicing the area.
The capacity of the new inland depot at Enfield, heralded as a major part of the solution, is now being publicly questioned and this solution will be lucky to stick for any appreciable time.
The politically inspired promise of a transfer of 40 per cent of all Sydney container traffic to rail is also acknowledged as beyond reality given the existing rail networks.
Regardless of the above, the environmental approval for Sydney limits container capacity to 3.2 million TEU a year so, by the Sydney Ports Corporation’s own admission, the maximum capacity of Botany Bay will be reached within 10 years.
The proposed container facilities at Mayfield cannot be introduced in earnest until the new facilities are built and the construction of those facilities cannot be started until the remedial clean-up work is completed.
This means that the earliest that Newcastle could start relieving the pressure on Sydney would be 2015 or 2016 and thereafter its natural growth will probably be less than half the state’s natural annual increase.
Those who believe that Port Kembla has the answers need to examine the facts and these are that the new outer harbour is not planned to provide container facilities for at least another 10 years and possibly longer.
The combination of improvements in Botany Bay, the immediate development of Newcastle and the introduction of facilities at Port Kembla in 2021 is likely to be the minimum that needs to be done; and, in the interests of the state, procrastination needs to stop and development needs to start.
Mick Payze, of Toronto, is the
director of Shipping and Freight