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Albany’s port boom

THE Port of Albany is looking forward to an investment boom next year with major exporters due to spend about $100 million.

Grain handler Co-operative Bulk Handling and woodchip exporters Timbercorp, Integrated Tree Cropping and Great Southern Plantations are all on the brink of proceeding with major investments.

The prospect of extra investment augurs well for the Albany Port Authority, which has been battling to trade profitably.

The biggest investment, worth more than $70 million, is an upgrade of CBH’s port terminal facilities.

CBH has been assessing the possible upgrade for more than 18 months and its board is due to make a final decision in January.

It has already sought submissions from construction companies to pre-qualify to tender and is aiming to complete the project by November 2005, in time for the 2004-05 harvest.

The proposed upgrade includes relocation of the rail corridor and construction of a new rail discharge facility that will increase capacity from 700 tonnes per hour to 2,000 tonnes per hour.

CBH is also planning to construct additional storage silos, upgrade weighing, sampling and transfer equipment and improve road access.

The planned work at Albany comes amidst a record grain harvest in Western Australia estimated at 14.4 million tonnes.

It follows the upgrade of CBH’s three other port terminals over the past decade, most recently at Esperance where it invested $68 million in 1999.

Albany Port Authority managing director Brad Williamson said the port had traditionally been reliant on grain exports but was looking forward to the growth of plantation woodchip exports.

Plantation managers Timbercorp and Integrated Tree Cropping, through their jointly owned port operations company Plantation Pulpwood Terminals, together with Japanese trading house Marubeni, are planning to invest $18 million in new export facilities at Albany.

They are targeting the first shipment of woodchips in the second half of 2004.

Great Southern Plantations is planning to invest about $10 million in new infrastructure, including woodchip receival and storage facilities at the port.

These moves follow the opening last year of a $52 million woodchip mill and export facility at Albany by a consortium of Japanese companies, including Oji Paper and Itochu Corporation.

Mr Williamson said the location of the port made it inherently difficult to manage.

“It’s a challenge running an industrial site in the heart of a lifestyle town, the prettiest town in the State,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges is the task of transporting bulk commodities from the hinterland to the port.

The Oji project included a new rail line to minimise the volume of road transport but other timber companies are planning to use road transport, at least for an initial period until harvest volumes increase.

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