Mid-West trade tipped to grow on back of upgrade

THE completion of a major upgrade at Geraldton Ports is expected to deliver significant growth in trade for the Mid-West region.

The $103 million Port Enhancement Project is just one of several major developments happening in and around Geraldton.

A total of $250 million is being spent on development around Geraldton, including a $46 million project sealing the Mt Magnet-Leinster road at Sandstone, and a $72.2 million South Transport Corridor.

Facilitated by the upgrade, trade through the port is expected to flourish, with a bumper crop in grain – the port’s largest export – expected this year.

From January 2004, Mt Gibson Iron is also anticipated to contribute significantly to exports from Geraldton Port with the export of 1.5 million tonnes of iron ore annually.

Possible oil and gas developments from the Perth Basin could offer further business.

Geraldton Port CEO Peter George said the upgrade had made the port more internationally competitive by allowing ships to take on more cargo than was previously possible due to the shallow harbour basin.

Instead, ships had to sail to another WA port, such as Kwinana, to fill to capacity.

The basin has now been deepened to 12.1 metres and the access channel to between 12 and 14 metres, which will allow ships to take a full load when calling at the port.

Mr George said the extra travel to other ports was seen as a negative for many customers.

A deeper port meant more ships could load more cargo and sail directly to their markets, making the operations at the port more cost effective and efficient, Mr George said.

 “We call this the opening of our new port.  Previously we had a port that was not internationally competitive and we could not properly service our customers,” he said.

Trade through Geraldton is mostly in bulk commodities, with about $A1 billion worth of trade passing through the port each year.

In addition to grain, the port also trades in mineral sands, talc, copper/zinc concentrates and garnet. Livestock is also exported through the port.

Major imports through Geraldton Port include petroleum products and fertilisers.

It’s also hoped the upgrade and increased trade will improve the port’s bottom line.

Due mainly to the effects of the drought, the port posted a small financial loss in the 2001-02 financial year, followed by a small profit in the 2002-03 year.

The Geraldton Port Authority commenced the upgrade at the 150-year-old facility in September last year with a program to deepen the harbour basin and access channel.

Substantial wharf modifications, upgrades to ship loaders and  navigational aids, and construction of sea walls were also undertaken as part of the project.

The construction phase of the upgrade was estimated to have delivered a $58 million boost to output from the Mid-West, including a $41 million increase to local business, a $26 million rise in household income and the creation of more than 500 new jobs.

In a statement announcing the completion of the upgrade, Premier Geoff Gallop said the Mid-West stood to benefit from the deepened port, opening up huge opportunities in the region to capture new trade.

“The port enhancement project is part of an integrated strategy to revitalise Geraldton and develop further regional, employment and tourism and opportunities,” he said.

“This project has provided jobs and a massive capital injection to a region in need of an economic boost.

“Increased grain flow, new minerals trade and an already vibrant fishing industry will see Geraldton and the Mid-West flourish.”


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