THE Port Authority of NSW has signed an agreement with Svitzer Australia that will set new safety standards for towage services at the Port of Newcastle. 

PANSW CEO Philip Holliday said the agreement follows the signing of a non-exclusive towage licence for Newcastle. 

“Having non-exclusive towage licences will improve port safety, efficiency, and emergency response capabilities within the Port of Newcastle,” Mr Holliday said. 

“This means we can now allow several towage providers to service the port of Newcastle as long as they comply with the new safety standards.” 

Mr Holliday said open and transparent eligibility criteria allow any towage provider that meets the criteria to apply for, and be issued, a licence in Newcastle. 

“We now require towage services to be continuously available to incoming ships, ready to start within two hours of a booking request, and a minimum fleet must be maintained within the port.” 

The licence also contains obligations to share information and participate in joint simulation exercises with port authority to improve safety outcomes in the ports. 

“This announcement delivers our promise to establish these licences in all our ports,” Mr Holliday said. 

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Set of standards

Svitzer’s managing director Nicolaj Noes said the licence provides a set of standards for towage assets and their availability to support safe and reliable services in the port. 

“Svitzer is proud to meet the criteria of the licence, ultimately assisting in improving port safety, efficiency and emergency response capabilities of the port authority and for all port users,’’ Mr Noes said. 

By 1 June 2021, PANSW will require any vessel requiring pilotage in the Port of Newcastle to only use towage providers who hold a non-exclusive towage licence. 

The port authority established non-exclusive towage licences in Sydney Harbour and Port Botany in June 2020 and is now working on doing the same at Port Kembla and Eden. 

Context

Svitzer has operated at the Port of Newcastle, in part, through an agreement with Smit Lamnalco. Svitzer provides towage services on behalf of Smit Lamnalco at the ports of Melbourne Botany and Brisbane, in addition to Newcastle. 

Under the agreement, both tug companies maintain their own commercial activities and continue to compete. 

The agreement, which began in 2015, has been extended several times and is in place through August 2024.  

Svitzer proposed ceasing operations in Port Jackson and Geelong late last year.

In December management, employees and the union worked together and found a way to enable Svitzer to continue operating in Port Jackson.

In Geelong, Svitzer continues to honour contracts in the port, and services continue with the alternative towage provider. The company cited decreasing volumes and a loss in port share as the reason behind the move.

This article has been updated to reflect that Svitzer continues to operate in Port Jackson and honours customer contracts in Geelong.

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