PORTS Australia’s 46th Biennial Conference in Darwin was in full swing yesterday (Tuesday, 28 August), with 15 presentations covering many aspects of running ports in Australia.
On Monday, Ports Australia held its AGM, and Northern Territory minister for infrastructure, planning and logistics Eva Lawler hosted a cocktail party for delegates at the NT Parliament House.
Below are brief summaries of some of the presentations that were given over the course of the first day of the conference.
The day kicked off with Ports Australia CEO Michael Gallacher delivering some “bad news”. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who was scheduled to speak, was not in attendance, “due to circumstances outside of our control,” Mr Gallacher said.
However, he said Anthony Albanese was still planning to speak at the second day of the conference, as “Albo isn’t part of the swearing-in ceremony – not yet, at least”, Mr Gallacher quipped.
Next up was Ports Australia chairman and TasPorts CEO Paul Weedon, who gave a brief overview of the topics to be cover for the day, albeit from a Tasmanian point of view, pointing out that the size of vessels calling at Australian ports were growing in size – even in Tasmania.
Then, Adam Handley, who is president of the WA Australia China Business Council and senior partner at MinterEllison, did a deep dive into the business and trade relationship that Australia has with China. He argued that there wasn’t a “binary choice” for Australia to align with either the US or China. He suggested Australia should focus on domestic stability, and spreading influence where it could – the Pacific region.
Synergies Economics principal Euan Morton took delegates through an in-depth analysis of the economic and regulatory issues around Australian ports.
During part of the presentation, he spoke about social licence and community engagement.Mr Morton drew comparisons between the ports industry and the gas-pipeline industry. He said, among other similarities, that gas pipelines bring great good to consumers, but are largely invisible, and ports are similar.
Also, Mr Morton spoke about ports’ connections with communities in which they operate. He cited the Container exhibit at the Australian National Maritime Museum as a good example of the industry engaging with its community.
“This industry has done a great job, but the public aren’t necessarily aware of it, and that’s going to be a big issue moving forward,” he said.
Svitzer head of innovation David Bartnik gave a talk covering broad themes of technology changing the industry and how companies such as Svitzer and its parent company Maersk use new technologies to make the supply chain safer and more efficient. Mr Bartnik spoke about automation, giving Svitzer’s remote-control tug project as an illustration. However, he said regulation was an impediment. “In many ways the regulatory hurdles are bigger than the technological hurdles in a project like this,” he said.
DCN’s coverage of the Ports Australia Biennial Conference will continue tomorrow.