Precinct plan may be sunk – Newcastle Herald

Author: By MICHELLE HARRIS
Date: 02/12/2010
Words: 406
Source: NCH

New terminals are vital to supply, writes Mick Payze.

THE Newcastle Herald editorial “Steelworks coal project” (2/12) illustrates to me the misconceptions that pervade public understanding of the supply and demand for cargo-handling capacity.

The editorial challenged the need for new container capacity at Newcastle based on the extent of the new container terminal developments that are coming on stream at Botany Bay in Sydney, assuming that these will more than meet demand for the foreseeable future.

Almost universally, container throughputs are actually rising long term by two to three times GDP and often far faster than that.

It is hard to comprehend what that means for the provision of handling facilities.

In 2008, the demand for container throughput for the combined three Sydney container terminals was forecast to grow to 3.2 million TEU (20-foot containerequivalent units) by 2022, this volume being the absolute capacity limit as determined in approvals at that time.

Now in 2010, Sydney throughputs are already back on track after the global financial crisis and are more than a year ahead of those earlier projections.

In fact, volumes in the first three months of 2010-11 have further escalated, with an increase over last year of 14 per cent – well ahead of projections.

NSW needs to recognise that it must plan for more capacity, and fast.

The proposal to develop a further container terminal at Mayfield is in keeping with this strategy and would act as a future distribution and aggregation point for the 20 to 25 per cent of NSW’s industrial, agricultural and business centres that are closer to Newcastle than Sydney.

Subsequent development of container facilities at Port Kembla will also play a part but this will probably occur as the second or third stage of the outer harbour development in tandem with the opening of the proposed 35-kilometre Maldon-Dumbarton rail access line.

The transport issues of the state, in fact all states, need to be addressed at many levels but the Mayfield container terminal project is one that should be considered ahead of all others at this stage.

Just on strategic grounds, the concentration of the state’s shipping into Brotherson Dock, Sydney, represents an unnecessary risk factor – a major shipping catastrophe in the entrance channel could cause a medium-term blockage, with severe restrictions to the flow of containers in and out of the state.

The development of alternative facilities diminishes the level of adverse consequences that such an incident could cause.

Those against the Mayfield facility should study the history of the development of the container terminal at Tauranga, New Zealand. It drew the same sort of adverse publicity when it opened in 1992. It now handles about 40 per cent of the combined container volumes that would otherwise have frozen access to Auckland.