AFTER a bumper NSW crop harvest, Port Kembla is buzzing with activity as it prepares for the first export shipment of wheat to leave the port in more than two years.

The departure of bulk carrier Ince Tokyo – carrying over 50,000 tonnes of wheat from GrainCorp sites at Barellen, Milvale, Quandialla, Calleen and Ardlethan in regional NSW – marks the region’s first major export volume of the product since 2018, following a prolonged period of drought across the state.

After a couple of days loading at the GrainCorp facility, the vessel is due to leave Port Kembla on 11 December where it will begin its 25-day voyage to the Middle East.

NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas said, “NSW is on track for a strong harvest season. This is great news for our farmers and it’s fantastic to see grain flowing back into Port Kembla, ready for export to international markets.

“Port Kembla is uniquely positioned with two grain facilities, located directly on rail with the capability to handle, store and load a variety of grains.”

GrainCorp operates the Port Kembla Grain Terminal which is the largest export grain terminal on the east coast of Australia, while Qube-owned Quattro Ports also operates a bulk grain handling facility in the Inner Harbour of Port Kembla.

Port Kembla is gearing up for a record season of grain export with grain trains now arriving regularly from regional NSW, laden with wheat, barley and canola. Frequent train services are expected to continue over the coming months.

Each train carries around 2500 tonnes of grain, which is released from the wagon into the grain pit before being transported by conveyor to the terminal to be sorted, graded and stored ready for export by vessel to international markets.

Following the first vessel departure, GrainCorp has at least three more shipments booked to depart the port this year before volumes peak in early 2021, with capacity booked out until May 2021.

GrainCorp corporate affairs manager Jess Simons said, “It’s great to see after several years of drought that growers have had a successful season of production across southern NSW, which leads to a strong export program out of Port Kembla.

“With a 24-hour rail cycle through to the port, our southern NSW sites play a key role in the most operationally efficient port zone in NSW.”

Meanwhile, Quattro Ports’ first shipment of 36,000 tonnes of wheat will commence loading in mid-December onboard the MV Funing. Forecast volumes are high with an anticipated two to three vessel bookings per month until mid-next year.