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Cranes top performers

AUSTRALIA’S major think-tank publication on waterfront productivity, the Bureau of Transport Economics, has declared Fremantle the nation’s star performer in crane productivity.

According to the Bureau’s latest Waterline report, Fremantle achieved the highest crane productivity among the nation’s five container ports with average rates for the December quarter 2000 being 26.8 movements per hour compared to a national five-port average of 25.5.

The data shows the State’s main general cargo port was also the lowest cost port for ship-based charges on a per ship visit basis in the period July to December 2000.

The average net crane rate - the productivity per crane while the ship is worked - for the other four ports were Brisbane 26.3, Melbourne 25.8, Adelaide 25.3 and Sydney 24.3.

The findings provide a boost to Fremantle’s aspirations to be the nation’s western shipping gateway and to continue to attract international shipowners to call here.

A recent boost to shipping services came with changes to Mediterranean Shipping Co’s Capricorn Service to Jakarta and Singapore which has been upgraded from a monthly one-ship service to a two-ship weekly service.

Sea Freight Council executive officer Michael O’Callaghan said ongoing reforms at ports dotted along our 13,000 kilometres of coastline were essential to the health of the State’s export-focused economy.

Western Australia had to extract every possible advantage in getting its goods to market from one of the world’s most isolated places.

“It really is a case of sink or swim for producers here because we are a long way from our markets and there are far too many competitors in the northern hemisphere who are only too willing to cut us out of the loop,” O’Callaghan said.

“Reliability of supply is always a concern and that’s why we need to ensure that every sector of the transport chain, whether it be a road or rail interface with a port, or towage arrangements, is constantly being fine tuned to give us an edge.”

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said she would continue the drive for waterfront reform, but would achieve it through a consultative means and not the “balaclavas and guard dogs” that characterised the Australian waterfront from the mid 1990s.

“A real negative of the previous government arose out of a tribal antipathy towards the union movement,” MacTiernan said.

“I’d like to see much more creative interaction between industry, government and employees.”

Ms MacTiernan said she was keen to develop long-term planning strategies to preserve the international competitiveness of ports.

She said a public review of the freight network in the metropolitan area would be conducted to ensure a long-term solution for port access and there would be greater planning for industrial buffers.

“Most of this State’s imports and exports are by sea, with Fremantle Port currently handling about 30 per cent by value of WA’s sea exports and 91 per cent by value of sea imports,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Despite scepticism from the shipping industry, Ms MacTiernan remains dedicated to a pre-election promise to make Bunbury the State’s second container port and has indicated she may explore some sort of barge based service.

Ms MacTiernan takes the view that Bunbury presents a more practical option for containerisation than the proposed private port at James Point.

One prominent industry player, who asked to be un-named, said he considered this a “dangerous political stunt.”

Australian Chamber of Shipping WA chairman Simon Luff said “ if Port Kembla and Newcastle can’t work up enough trade to serve any overspill from Sydney which already has four times as much trade as Fremantle, then I can’t see it happening at Bunbury.”

Patrick chairman Chris Corrigan said the Bunbury plan ignored the global trend towards larger ships which would see higher use of hub ports.

Mr Corrigan said governments should accommodate the global trend towards the concentration of sophisticated facilities rather than a fragmentation of transport services

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