Upgrade means business boost for southern port

THE first 180,000-tonne cargo ship will pull up next month alongside the wharf at the Port of Esperance.

Nearing the end of a 14-month, $54 million upgrade, the port, which handles the most nickel concentrate in the Southern Hemisphere, is now as deep as any Australian port, without taking northern tides into account.

As part of the upgrade, the whole of Esperance harbour has been dredged and 20 hectares of land reclaimed.

New constructions at the minerals, grain and livestock port have included a third berth, new breakwater, a 300,000 tonne additional storage facility and new loading facilities.

The main driver for the latest upgrade, Portman Mining, will benefit from the extra depth and new loader on the third berth.

Esperance Port Authority and Portman have signed a 15-year agreement for iron ore passing through the port. Based on annual tonnage estimates, Portman will pay a handling fee, for the unloading of ore trains, storage and shiploading.

The upgrade has also boosted the town’s employment opportunities. Including extra trade and maintenance staff, the Esperance Port Authority will have increased its employee levels by 15 per cent over the period of the upgrade, including at least 10 more appointments early next year.

Esperance Port Authority chief executive officer Colin Stewart is optimistic about opportunities to increase the port’s activities.

Total trade for the port for the year ended June 30 2001 reached four million tonnes, but Portman Mining managing director managing director Ian Burston said his company expected to ship at least 4.5 million tonnes of ore through Esperance during 2002.

Mr Stewart said fuel, fertiliser, grain, nickel and iron ore trade were expected to account for six million tonnes of trade through the port during the current financial year. Other regional development plans, including the Ravensthorpe nickel project and a south-eastern woodchip industry, were further supplementing forecasts of significantly increased trade in the medium term, he said.

Increased trade and the environ-mental performance of the new shiploading facilities’ noise and dust controls are not the only operational improvements envisaged for the port.

Esperance Port Authority currently provides its own power from a diesel plant on-site, but will benefit from the planned gas-fired power plant for the Esperance region, to be built on port authority land, and completed in mid-2003.

As the largest consumer of power in Esperance, the authority will be able to negotiate its own price, with reductions from present costs likely to be in the vicinity of 15 per cent.

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