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Transport & Logistics

Regional Ports 2011 – Part 1: A princess and a seal

22 Sep 2011, by Informa Insights

Regional Ports 2011 – Highlight summary – PART 1

Showcasing the latest port developments that drive regional ports, Regional Ports 2011 , proudly hosted by Tasports, continued the tradition of bringing together key decision makers and stakeholders to discuss the current issues impacting the health of our regional commercial trading ports and the well-being of the Australian economy.

This year’s event commenced with a welcome reception at the Australian Maritime College that gave attendees the opportunity to tour the world class training and research facilities at the AMC’s Launceston campus, including the Centre for Maritime Simulation and Towing Tank.  A number of attendees were AMC alumni and some even recalled Princess Di’s visit to the AMC in 1983. (If you click here to view a short highlight of that royal tour, make sure you watch til the end for the AMC cameo!)

Chaired by GHD’s NSW Manager, Matt Batman, Day One of the commenced with an official welcome for the hosts, Tasports before the Hon David O’Byrne MP, Minister for Infrastructure, discussed the Tasmanian State Government’s port priorities. One of the most exciting being the $79 million Tasmanian Government funded, Brighton Transport Hub Project  which will involve the construction of a modern road-rail facility and freight distribution hub at Brighton.

As an island within an exporting island nation, Tasmania’s port priorities are quite unique. Despite a challenging economic environment, Tasmania’s economy continues to grow thanks to the performance of the island state’s exports. However, although Tasmania recorded $3.24 billion in international exports over the past year, which is 10 per cent higher than the previous year, it faces a number of external issues including higher interest rates, a punishing exchange rate and wage pressures driven by the mining boom.

Looking at the national picture, Ports Australia’s CEO, David Anderson, spoke about the impact of the National Ports Strategy, the value of regional ports and that more agencies and government ministers were talking about the needs of regional ports. Discussing the National Ports Strategy, Mr Anderson said it would involve minimum of federal intervention and work as an “opt-in” proposition with some states likely to embrace it more readily than others. He said issues such as urban encroachment were just as relevant for small regional ports as with large container ports such as Melbourne and Fremantle.

While Mr Anderson’s warned that national productivity was “going south” and risked being left exposed when the resources boom ended, BREE’s Senior Economist, Kate Penney provided stats that exports of Australian minerals should raise substantially during 2011-12.

“In 2011-12, Australia’s iron ore export volumes are forecast to increase by another 8% to 437m tones… Earnings are forecast to increase by 17% to $65.3bn as lower iron ore prices are expected to be more than offset by an increase in export volumes.However, our exports earnings for metallurgical coal are estimated to have increased by around 30% to $31.9bn as a result of significantly higher average contract prices.”

And just when it looked that everything was on the upscale and getting bigger, Drewry Shipping consultant David Bayne dispelled the myth that modern ships are always getting larger in his review of the future state of the shipping industry as it affects Australia and the domestic ports industry. Mr Bayne provided perspective to the scale of the shipping industry and task ahead.  Australia’s regional ports vary from very small to very large: Yamba with 12,000 mass tonnes of cargo per year and Port Hedland with over 177,000,000 mass tonnes of cargo per year. On one hand Australian regional ports are amongst the world’s largest. On the other hand, of the ten largest ports worldwide five are Australian (Dampier, Port Hedland, Hay Pt, Newcastle & Gladstone).

Looking at future directions for port planning, GHD’s Principal Economist, Guy Reynolds, highlighted that although the overarching priorities for ports: trade; equity; efficiency and community engagement, have not changed, the context in which ports pursue them has become “vastly more complex and more uncertain”.  As Mr Reynolds reminded everyone, “Understanding change is much more than the projection of statistical trend-lines… What we know is that port infrastructure will be around for 50 years or longer. The challenge is being sufficiently envisioned, innovative and courageous, but at the same time maintaining flexibility with limited retained earnings and increased competition for new public funds. ”

He continued with the wisdom that ports need “a 360 degree vision” that incorporates and accommodates the requirements of exporters and importers, communities, port management, global shipping and the marine environment. Aptly finishing with Cargotec’s vision of a port in 2060 –  Port 2060, giving us all a futuristic glimpse of the ongoing evolution of the shipping world, 100 years after the invention of containerisation.

Thinking of the unprecedented change over the last century, it was refreshing to hear how over 200 years of direct association with Antarctica has seen the development of specialist cold climate expertise in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Polar Network’s Chairman, John Brennan detailed the TPN’s strategies for developing a local hub of excellence for the sector.  Given the value of the Antarctic sector in ($182.5 million) and to ($149 million) Tasmania, it was great to see the innovative and intelligent direction for Tasmania’s future in maritime operations in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

Part 2 will continue with the popular CEO session and highlights from the Regional Ports Dinner, discussions on the wider infrastructure and customer network and the site tour of Bell Bay.

A highlights photo gallery will soon be available online

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