A NEWCASTLE container terminal is simply too far away from destinations, a submission to a New South Wales Upper House Parliamentary inquiry maintains.

The submission, entitled Port Botany, The heartbeat of the NSW economy, was prepared by NSW Ports which argues its own facilities at Port Botany and (in the future) Port Kembla are better placed.

Unsurprisingly it has already attracted criticism from Port of Newcastle, which argues strong rail links into the Hunter will prove an advantage.

NSW Ports argues Botany and Kembla better reflect population, demographic and economic growth trends which are in Sydney’s west and south-west.

Chief executive Marika Calfas said the benefits of a 2m TEU container terminal at Newcastle lacked credible evidence and ignored negative impacts from changing long-standing planning.

“The simple facts are that there is no demand for a new terminal at present and if there were, Newcastle is the wrong place to build it as it is too far away from the container destinations,” Ms Calfas said.

NSW Ports argues of all the containers imported each year through Port Botany, 80% were unloaded within 40kms of the port and less than 2% were destined for the Hunter, Newcastle and Central Coast regions.

Ms Calfas said it made no sense to have containers unloaded in Newcastle as most would then need to be delivered over 160km back into Sydney.

“Based on the Port of Newcastle’s own estimates of capacity, this would create more than 2700 extra truck movements a day in Newcastle, with most trucks travelling on the F3 between Newcastle and Sydney, and that’s assuming that half of the volume will be moved by rail, which is doubtful,” she said.  “Billions of dollars of investment in road and rail infrastructure would be required to support such a terminal.”

“There is currently a huge amount of excess capacity in the existing three competing container terminal facilities at Port Botany,” she said.

“Port Botany has the capacity to handle more than 7 million TEU a year, currently only 2.6 million TEU are handled at the port. A fourth container terminal is unlikely to be needed until after 2040.”

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Ms Calfas said the Port of Newcastle Port Commitment Deed was an agreement solely between the Port of Newcastle (owned by China Merchants Port Holdings / The Infrastructure Fund) and the NSW Government, knowingly entered into by the Port of Newcastle as part of its purchase of the Newcastle Port lease in 2014.

“The Port of Newcastle is attempting to have the conditions of the sale changed without compensating the NSW Government. It could be argued that the Port of Newcastle’s investors, China Merchants Port Holdings and The Infrastructure Fund, are seeking business value uplift at the expense of the NSW taxpayers,” Ms Calfas said.

Port of Newcastle senior manager corporate communications Sam Collyer told Daily Cargo News they had been open about economic analysis supporting the need for Newcastle’s terminal development.

“We’re targeting the newer, more efficient and greener ships that are being built in large numbers overseas – these ships won’t be able to be accommodated at other ports on the east coast,” Mr Collyer said.

“Newcastle already has the channel depth and mature rail and road connections needed for a fully-automated container terminal.”

Mr Collyer said the Newcastle Container Terminal would be built with private funds and without impacting taxpayers.

“Private investors make their own assessment as to the commercial viability of their own investments,” he said.

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