19/09/2006 - 22:00

Shipping takes on its critics

19/09/2006 - 22:00

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While Pilbara ports are experiencing good times thanks to the resources boom, the shipping industry is still plagued by the perception it is an impractical, costly and comparatively slow form of transport.

Shipping takes on its critics

While Pilbara ports are experiencing good times thanks to the resources boom, the shipping industry is still plagued by the perception it is an impractical, costly and comparatively slow form of transport.

Fremantle-based Seacorp Ltd managing director, Craig Thompson, told WA Business News there was a perception that shipping did not serve most manufacturers’ needs, and was viewed as a slower, more expensive form of transport than road, which more capably satisfies ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing principles.

It’s a perception Mr Thompson doesn’t share.

“The transport times compared to road are about the same,” he said. “For example, there are eight sailing days between here and Darwin compared to seven by road.

“From transport by ship [of non-time sensitive and heavy, awkward project cargoes], companies can make cost savings of 20 per cent up to the Pilbara compared to road transport, and 30 per cent cost savings beyond the Pilbara up to areas such as Wyndham.”

Mr Thompson said the utilisation of marine as well as land transport modes could improve inventory management and achieve cost savings.

“With some logical thinking there are serious savings to be achieved by utilising a mixture of urgent and non urgent systems,” he said.

“Procurement and logistics managers stand to gain a lot if they think about what cargo can go now and what can go later.”

And suggestions there was a lack of storage space on ships was incorrect, he claimed, since Seacorp offered continuous receivals at the wharf to all the ports it serviced as well as offering ‘door-to-door’ service.

Mr Thompson said the state government was partly underwriting the coastal shipping services, to the benefit of the industry and regional communities.

Seacorp won a state government contract earlier this year to supply shipping services to regional ports in the north-west, taking over from national firm Patrick Corporation Ltd.

Earlier this month, the Pilbara ports of Dampier and Port Hedland experienced throughput records of 110 million tonnes each for the year ended June 2006, according to the American Association of Port Authorities World Port Rankings.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that, with Cape Lambert exporting 56.2mt, the combined Pilbara throughout, at 277mt, ranked fourth in the world behind Shanghai, Singapore and Rotterdam.

“This figure is projected to reach 440mt by 2010,” she said.

Port Hedland is ranked 25th and Dampier 26th in the world with the value of trade reaching almost $16 billion and the ports handling almost 4,000 ships between them.

As much as 95 per cent of trade by tonnage through the Port Hedland port facility was iron ore, while Dampier’s trade by tonnage was 81 per cent iron ore, 15 per cent gas products – LNG, LPG, condensate – and 3 per cent salt.

Both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are looking to increase their port capacities, with Rio’s phase B 140mt per annum capacity expansion at Dampier to be completed by end of 2007. BHP is working on ‘rapid growth projects 3’ at its Port Hedland facility to increase capacity by a further 20mtpa and is conducting a feasibility study in RGP 4, which would increase system capacity to 152mtpa.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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