Broome waits on funds call

BROOME Port may have come through this year’s cyclone season unscathed, but the same claim cannot yet be made for future trading plans.

The Broome Port Authority is in need of $14 million to ensure it can keep current trade, improve on limited berthing space, and support expected opportunities in tourism and the oil and gas services industry.

A cost-benefit analysis convinced the Broome PA to apply late last year to the State and Federal Governments for funding to support a 148-metre extension to the current jetty.

The WA Government has granted half of the $5 million for which the Broome PA applied under the WA Regional Infrastructure Funding Pro-gram, and has approved a Treasury Corp loan of $4 million.

However, this funding comes with conditions – the main one being that the total $6.5 million must be matched by Federal Government grants by the end of the year.

The Broome PA wants to start construction by the end of the year.

Based on the cost-benefit study, the authority is expecting to reach its limits in servicing the livestock industry within three years.

“Stock would have to be trucked to Port Hedland,” Broome PA chief executive officer Stefan Frodsham said.

Further, the authority is keen to service potential oil and gas industry developments in the Browse Basin, but this opportunity could go to Darwin, if the Broome expansion is not completed within two years.

This extra clientele – including Inpex, BHP Billiton Petroleum, Woodside Energy, and Santos –

is not considered insignificant.

Mr Frodsham said the port was not expecting an answer on its application to the Federal Government, for $7.5 million, for up to eight weeks.

Full funding for a 148-metre extension would enable berthing and working deck activities to continue for other trading, fishing, naval and pearling vessels, while petroleum tankers were being serviced, Mr Frodsham said.

Presently, berthing and working deck space is unavailable whenever a petroleum tanker is being unloaded.

These vessels, which supply fuel to the West Kimberley region, berth 10 times each year, closing down other operations for up to 48 hours.

Some additional berthing space and working dock area could be accommodated with a smaller extension, but 148 metres, which would increase berthing space by 80 percent, was the minimum to enable livestock exports and coastal shipping trade to be able to continue, Mr Frodsham said.

And a smaller extension would still require up to $12 million, he said.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the WA Government recognised Broome Port was a critical facility for cattle exports, offshore oil and gas, pearling, tourism and fishing.

Broome Port has been operational since the late 1880s, but the Broome PA was only established in January 2000.

The current jetty has remained virtually as it was when first constructed in the mid-60s, but in the past four years tonnage through the port has doubled.

In peak periods, the port services up to 190 vessels each month.

Forty per cent of service revenue comes from petroleum supply vessels, a quarter from the livestock industry, and 13 per cent from the oil and gas sector.

Revenues doubled in the four financial years to June 2001, but restrict-ed operational capacity has been nominated as one factor preventing further growth.

The local economy suffered a significant setback when Ansett ceased operations, and the port reported a loss for the 2001-02 financial year.

However, now the outlook for the region has picked up again, partly through an upgrade of the privately-owned Broome International Airport and a subsequent increase in long-haul flights from the eastern Australia.

Over the past four years, Broome has also hosted seven luxury cruise liners. However, the Broome PA’s main chance of posting a profit is via a major contract with a long-term customer.

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