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Transport & Logistics

GUEST POST: The 6 key outcomes of 2012 Regional Ports Conference – by Conference Chair, Dr Stephen Cahoon, Australian Maritime College

6 Aug 2012, by Informa Insights

We were delighted to have Dr Stephen Cahoon, the AMC‘s Deputy Director (Maritime and Logistics Management) chair the 2012 Regional Ports Conference in Perth this June.

Dr Cahoon’s experience and industry knowledge was evident throughout the two days. In addition to his primary research interests of seaport and shipping marketing, people-related issues such as human capital and employee retention, logistics, and being a supervisor of nine maritime and logistics focused PhD candidates, Dr Cahoon has recently completed a joint study on Constructing Competitive Advantage: Regional Ports in Local Innovation Systems funded by the Australian Federal Government.

Dr Cahoon provided the following summary of the issues that were canvassed at this this year’s event.

The theme of the 2012 Regional Ports Conference was ‘Increasing the efficiency and engagement of Australia’s critical trade gateways’.  Highlights of the Conference included the high standard of the informative presentations, including many multimedia presentations, the candid responses to questions by guest speakers, and the many benefits of networking with like-minded people passionate about the industry.

Six key sub-themes were identified during the conference that highlighted the key role of our regional ports on Australia’s economic prosperity:

  1. Reform
  2. Planning
  3. Expansion
  4. Integration
  5. Engagement
  6. Environment


Sue McCarrey (Department of Transport WA) explained the Government’s vision for WA ports including the Port Governance Review and the WA Regional Freight Transport Plan.  The necessity for individual regional port plans to be developed in conjunction with State and national port strategies was also highlighted.  The size of the freight task and thus need for reform, became clear with Sue noting that WA exports more than Queensland, NSW and Victoria combined.  An alternative view to port reform was provided during Jim Cooper’s (Port of Portland) presentation on the differences when managing a privatised port.

A different aspect of reform was detailed by Andrew Thompson (AMOG) in terms of mooring governance and linking this to decreasing operational risk in ensuring certified mooring designs and components are used in regions prone to cyclones.


It was evident from the presentations from government and ports that long term planning is being undertaken by regional ports with master plans for the next 15-30 either existing or being developed, most of which expanded beyond ports’ traditional boundaries to include landside links, inland corridors and terminals.  For example, Barry Holden (Port of Townsville) referred to his 2040 port plan, and Terry O’Connor (Darwin Port Corporation) explained details of the Port’s Master Plan 2030 which focuses on its land use strategy.


The presentation from Peter Malpas (Braemar Seascope) identified the sheer growth of Australia’s dry bulk exports including the number one and top three ranking of many of our exports on the world stage which was an ideal segue to the many examples from the ports of Darwin, Port Hedland, Portland and Townsville of their infrastructure developments to capitalise on the demand for Australia’s exports. These presentations are worth viewing again due to many facts and figures related to the expansion plans.  Of interest in the presentations was Roger Johnston (Port Hedland) stating with pride that the port was now the 30th largest in the world and that the port is nearing capacity; and Jim Cooper of the Port of Portland indicating the extent of his port’s growth with an increase from 2.8 million tonnes throughput in 2009 to 5.3 million tonnes in 2012.  Further expansion in WA was also discussed by Brett McLeod (API Management) in relation to the development of new port facilities at Anketell Point involving the construction of 275km of rail, shiploading facilities and accommodation at the iron ore site.  Brett indicated 3,500 workers will be required during the construction phase with a workforce of 1,000 required for operations. The presentations took a wider approach to port expansion by examining the development of inland ports in Victoria of which  Lachlan McDonald (Department of Transport Victoria) discussed the processes and lessons learnt in this development and improved land use.

Another reason for regional port expansion was due to the increasing number of cruise ship visits as explained by Peter Little of Carnival Australia.  Even our bulk ports are capitalising on this growth with Roger Johnston reporting 4 cruise ship visits to Port Hedland during 2012, each bringing $250,000 per day into the community.  The expansion across regional in WA is also resulting in increasing numbers of FIFO workers.  Ryan Both discussed how Virgin Australia is increasing flights to address the demand and how he is engaging with the various stakeholders.

With expansion comes increased hazards and chances of accidents.  Peter Foley (ATSB) provided examples of maritime accidents occurring around our regional ports and how these accidents may have been avoided.  Peter also explained the role and breadth of the Bureau’s responsibilities that included air and rail in addition to maritime.


The integration of ports within the many supply chains flowing through the ports was raised by each of the CEOs during their panel session.  Terry O’Connor (Darwin Port) for example, discussed the importance of the rail link established in 2006 that enabled the smaller mines to efficiently access logistics chains and export through the port.  Further integration with and support for the oil and gas industry was a growing industry for the port.  Similarly, Barry Holden referred to the pit to port supply chain in which the Port of Townsville is involved, while Lachlan McDonald (Department of Transport Victoria) explained the required integration for developing inland ports including road and rail links and warehousing and distribution centres.

Integration for regional ports extended beyond the logistics chains along freight corridors to integrating with local councils and tourism operators to accommodate the needs of cruise ship passengers, whom according to Peter Little (Carnival Australia) can equate to passengers from four A380 flights landing in a region for a day and providing an annual economic contribution of $830 million to Australia.


The Christchurch community coming together to deal with the devastation of the earthquakes

Engagement of regional ports with employees, customers, stakeholders, and the community figured strongly at the Conference. Paul Monk travelled from Lyttelton Port in New Zealand to explain his port’s engagement efforts with employees and the local community during the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes.  The haunting sounds of an earthquake played by Paul will certainly stay with many of us as will the photos of the after effects including the 1.5 metre land drops in the port precinct.

Jeannette Murray and Jane Edwards of Fremantle Ports continued the engagement theme with many examples of the Port’s activities on engaging with the community and their example of the education program framework.


The importance of caring for the environment was evident in many presentations with the two main contributors being Dr Lyndon Llewellyn (Australian Institute of Marine Science) and Andrew Skeat (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority).  Lyndon’s model showing the run off from rivers flowing up and down Northern Queensland

What was once considered pristine – Damage to the reef over the last century

was an indication of how far contaminates can travel and thus a warning of the effects of dredging if not carefully managed.  One of the most talked about photos of the Conference was shown during Andrew’s presentation showing a past and current photo of the one of the reefs clearly portraying the demise of that reef due to human impact.  Andrew provided a warning to the conference of the possible negative effects of the current shipping lanes around and through the Great Barrier Reef.

An excellent example of environment management in practice was evident with the tour of Fremantle Port where we sighted a pod of dolphins within the inner Port, a fitting conclusion to the Regional Ports Conference.

A few random facts collected during the Conference include:

  • WA exports 46% of Australia’s national exports, up from 26% in 2000 – Sue McCarrey
  • Christchurch has had 10,354 earthquakes since the main earthquake hit – Paul Monk
  • A sponge can process 24,000 litre of water per day – Dr Lyndon Llewellyn
  • The comparative size of the Great Barrier Reef is from the top of Scotland to the top of Italy -Andrew Skeat
  • Port Hedland – has 360 trucks arriving each day equating to one every 4 minutes – Roger Johnston
  • 3,500 workers needed to develop Anketell Point – Brett McLeod

It was indeed a pleasure to Chair the 2012 Regional Ports Conference and from a personal and professional perspective have found it highly beneficial.  In my role as the Deputy Director (Maritime and Logistics Management), the topics discussed and people I met aligned closely with the research and teaching interests of my Department.  The Department of Maritime and Logistics Management at the Australian Maritime College has research interests in regional ports as evidenced by its research on the:

  • role of regional ports in driving innovation and economic growth for their regions
  • integration of regional ports with stakeholders to develop efficient and effective supply chains
  • effects of climate change on regional ports and their supply chains.

The Department also provides undergraduate and postgraduate qualification for the ports, shipping and logistics industries.  It was of note that many of the guest speakers recognised the need for an integrated supply chain approach to business, which mirrors the approach the Department takes in both our teaching and research.

From a teaching perspective, the Department offers:

  • Bachelor of Business (Maritime and Logistics Management)
  • Bachelor of International Logistics (Freight Forwarding)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Maritime Technology Management)
  • Master of Business Administration (Maritime and Logistics Management)
  • Doctor of Philosophy

All of the above programs can be studied by distance education or on campus (with the exception of some engineering units in the Bachelor of Applied Science that are only offered on campus).  Further information can be found in the AMC Course Guide in the conference pack or at or by emailing  Please feel free to contact me at if I can be of assistance.

Dr Stephen Cahoon, Deputy Director (Maritime and Logistics Management), Australian Maritime College

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