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Port key to boom

THE Port of Broome – officially known as the Port of Pearls – is racing to complete a multi-million dollar development designed to cash in on the growing trade boom in the rugged Kimberley region of North West Australia.

The almost sleepy image of the pearl diving resort of Broome (population 11,000) hides a dynamic regional port – poised to take advantage of a rapidly expanding Kimberley economy.

If some of the major petroleum and gas exploration companies can be persuaded to use Broome as a supply base for their drilling activities in the far north west, the town appears set to score the financial jackpot.

The WA Government’s discoveries in the Scott Reef, Brecknock, Browse Basin areas 450 kilometres from Broome are potentially the largest gas deposits in the world.

Fremantle-based Mermaid Marine Australia chairman Alan Birchmore said there was a new understanding of the importance of gas.

Mermaid recently set up a supply base in Broome to act as part of a Darwin-Dampier supply chain.

“Shell Oil is now putting a priority one on gas,” Mr Birchmore said

“If you look at the North West from Exmouth to Darwin and create a triangle out to Timor there are about one hundred trillion cubic feet of uncommitted reserves.

“At Brecknock with 30 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves alone, it would be enough to keep Australia going for 30 to 40 years.”

He said Port of Broome was the only significant spot between Darwin and Dampier for any activity to be based.

Broome Port Authority CEO Stefan Frodsham said Broome was “ripe for expansion” and set to become WA’s second largest city within 20 years.

The port had a total capital expenditure last year of $5.1 million.

Port of Broome board chairman Allan Griffiths predicted Broome would soon export 100,000 head of live cattle per year.

Last year 74,000 head left the port.

The new Port of Pearls development, by West Perth-based Port City Investments, will provide an extensive new office complex for WA Fisheries department as well as the Broome Port Authority as a tenant.

It will include tourist facilities aimed at the large cruise ships and an up-market restaurant with alfresco dining at the end of the jetty.

Broome Chamber of Commerce spokesman for offshore oil and gas ron Johnston, said a consortium was formed of the chamber, the Shire of Broome, the Kimberley Development Commission and the Port Authority that commissioned a cost compre-hensive study of how Broome could compete with Darwin to service off shore oil and gas.

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