Call for new container facilities

26 Jun, 2009 02:00 AM
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THE State Government is being urged to accelerate the construction of new sea container handling facilities off the WA coast, to alleviate the frustrating lack of capacity at Fremantle Port.

Container trade at Fremantle Ports has grown by about 10 per cent annually on average, since the early 1990s.

In 2007, the trade was bolstered significantly by the deregulation of containerised wheat exports.

Experts say any new container loading facility needs to be located off the metropolitan coast because 90pc of WA's container trade travels within 50km of Fremantle.

Failure to build adequate infrastructure, to accommodate the expanding demand for WA commodities exported in containers, could potentially eat into the tightening profit margins of local grain growers.

Speaking to Farm Weekly last week, Premium Grain Handlers general manager John Orr said multiple plans were in the pipeline to construct a new container handling terminal at the James Point site, south of Fremantle.

Mr Orr said the current Liberal State Government and the previous Labor Government both supported developing an alternative container handling site at Kwinana.

However, he said they both differed in their opinions about the actual solution, which has caused a decade-long delay.

Transport Minister Simon O'Brien has wasted little time, saying he would like to see ships loaded at the James Point site within two years, and construction started some time this year.

However, it is not clear whether container facilities will be built within that timeframe.

Former Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan had a cautious approach when she was in the driver's seat, saying additional berths would be required to handle the burgeoning container trade at Fremantle's inner harbour, when it reached its expected optimal capacity in 2015.

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