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$50m port upgrade

THE Geraldton Port Authority will embarked on a $50 million strategic plan to upgrade facilities and deepen the harbour to accommodate larger vessels.

Geraldton Port Authority general manager John Durant said the plan would take the port into 21st century.

He said every component of the plan has a value and its sum total, when implemented, will equal improvement and a better service for all Port users.

Among the objectives are a deepening of the harbour, with a feasibility study of costs of the project due in June 1999.

“If it can be done, then the cost alone is the critical factor,” Mr Durant said.

“If this can be absorbed, then the deepening will be completed by June 2000. The prospect is an exciting one.”

The need for deepening the harbour has been known for a long time and the proposal to allow the berthing of ships of 38,000 tonnes deadweight with larger ships under certain restrictions.

The project would be run in tandem with land reclamation — land that could be developed for the benefit of the port and its users.

The need to deepen the port has been caused by grain ships leaving Geraldton partially loaded, then requiring a visit to Fremantle and Albany to top up prior to departure to their overseas destinations.

“The removal of this cost impediment to both the rural and mining sectors will result in significant gains in export performance for future trading,” Mr Durant said.

The port authority has already finished the refurbishment of its bulk handling facility on the port’s number four berth. That refurbishment cost $1.5 million.

GPA bulk handling facility superintendent Bill Pilkington said the work was vital – even mandatory.

The facility was built in 1965 for the export of iron ore by Western Mining and later redesigned for the handling of mineral sands.

“The equipment is well over 30 years old and the work we did was certainly needed,” Mr Pilkington said.

“The refurbishment of the rail hopper alone cost in the order of a quarter of a million dollars but it had to be done,” he said.

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