Port’s prosperity prompts major development

THE Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest container and general cargo port, with 34 commercial berths and more than 40 shipping lines making about 3400 stops there each year.
At the mouth of Port Phillip Bay, the bustling port handles about 36 per cent of the nation’s container trade, as well as providing berths for the Bass Strait passenger ferry, numerous international cruise ships, and naval vessels.
The port’s automotive trade terminal is the largest in Australia and handles up to 1000 new motor vehicles a day, while its numerous multipurpose terminals provide for a variety of non-containerised items.
Specialised docks allow for the movement of dry cargo such as cement, sugar and grain, and liquid bulk products including petrochemicals, crude oil and molasses.
The Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) was established in 2003 by the Victorian Government to act as “custodian, developer and strategic manager” of the port. As port manager, PoMC directs and controls the movement of vessels in the port’s waters; maintains channels and navigational aids; facilitates the provision of essential services by other businesses; and works to integrate rail and road systems with the port for smooth operation.
In its role as developer, PoMC recently spent $33.6 million on rehabilitation and remediation works at 33 South Wharf, Appleton Dock and Breakwater Pier. During the 2011 to 2012 financial year, PoMC also completed redevelopment of the Footscray Wharf and rehabilitation of the formerly contaminated site at 221 Whitehall Street in Yarraville.
A prosperous period
The last financial year proved prosperous for PoMC, with the company breaking trade and throughput records whil operating profit after tax of $99.8 million:
an increase of $60.8 million on the previous year.
Total port trade reached a new high of 87 million revenue tonnes, an increase of 9.1 per cent, and total container throughput reached a new national record of 2.58 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU): up 7.8 per cent on 2010 to 2011.
According to PoMC’s 2011 to 2012 annual report, the growth in container trade “resulted in the Port of Melbourne handling over a million more containers ayear than it did a decade ago and around 1500 containers a day more than it did just five years ago”.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said that the increase in container trade was encouraging, considering the economic difficulties facing the commercial sector during the course of the last year.
“It is particularly pleasing to note that in the face of a high Australian dollar and floods in the northern part of the state, our local producers made a strong contribution to this growth – with full container exports increasing by 9.8 per cent,” he said. “Container imports also increased by 7.1 per cent on the previous year.”
Mr Baillieu said the figures supported the Victorian Coalition Government’s decision to approve the Port Capacity Project: a major expansion of the Port’s container and automotive facilities. PoMC chief executive Stephen Bradford said the Port Capacity Project was necessary to cater for growing trade.
“With an increase in throughput of 7.8 per cent in 2011-2012, container growth is ahead of the long-term average of around 6.5 per cent over the last decade,” he said.
“Strong growth presents new challenges, which is why PoMC is preparing to deliver the largest landside port development project in a generation to expand the port’s container and automotive capacity.”
The Port Capacity Project
In April this year, Mr Baillieu and Ports minister Denis Napthine announced that the Port of Melbourne would undergo a $1.2 billion redevelopment as part of the longer-term Port Development Strategy.
Compiled in 2009, PoMC’s Port Development Strategy report forecast significant increases in trade volumes and terminal productivity leading up to 2035.
According to the report, international container trade was expected to reach 2.7 million TEU in 2015 and more than 7 million TEU in 2035.
The number of new motor vehicle passing through the port in 2015 was estimated at 388,000, with a marked increase to 720,000 in 2035.
On the back of these results, and continued record-breaking trade and throughput figures, PoMC initiated planning for the Port Capacity Project, to cater for growth in the short to medium term.
The project’s main area of redevelopment is Webb Dock, where a new container-handling terminal will be built with the capacity to handle at least one million containers per annum.
In June this year, the Premier also announced a further $400 million would be invested to build a fully-dedicated automotive import and export facility on the western side of Webb Dock, bringing the total project investment to $1.6 billion.
The automotive facility will provide the PoMC with the capacity to handle more than 600,000 vehicles a year, and will include a nearby pre-delivery inspection
component where vehicles can be prepared for dealerships.
Mr Baillieu said the new automotive precinct would not only create an extra 420 jobs during construction but would also support the wider automotive sector.
“The automotive aspect of the Port [Capacity] Project will see the construction of 920 metres of new wharves, more than 1000 supporting piles and 24,000 square metres of concrete decking,” he said.
“The auto industry employs more than 40,000 people across Victoria, and building world-class automotive facilities at the Port of Melbourne helps protect these jobs and grow Victoria’s economy.”
Other works at Webb Dock will includelandscaping and screening, dock deepening, an empty container stacking site and construction of noise walls.
Infrastructure upgrades will also be carried out at Swanson Dock, the port’s major container hub.
To push port traffic away from residential areas, PoMC will create direct road connections from Webb Dock and Swanson Dock to the M1 West Gate Freeway.
In August 2012, PoMC awarded civil and maritime design contracts to two consultancy firms, Aurecon and Arup, which will deliver detailed designs for the project’s internal roads, services infrastructure and maritime engineering services.
In October, the Victorian Government invited private sector bids for operation of the three components of the Webb Dock development: the container terminal; the automotive facility; and the pre-delivery inspection facility.
The process is currently in the expression of interest stage.
“All EoIs [expression of interests] will be assessed using commercial, environmental and community amenity criteria, while the Port of Melbourne will deliver the backbone infrastructure required for this development,” Mr Baillieu said.
The Port Capacity Project is due for completion in 2016.
Enhancing the surrounds
In the interest of enhancing the visual amenity of the port’s surrounding areas and providing better access to the open spaces within port boundaries, PoMC formulated a Port Interface Landscape Masterplan.
The plan envisages: extensive planting of vegetation and the installation of fencing, signage, viewing points and public art; and the construction of paths and seating in a number of areas including the following precincts: Williamstown, Swanson Dock, Stony Creek Backwash and the Moonee Ponds Creek.
In the report outlining the plan, PoMC stated that the development would work to “create improved user amenity and access, encourage usage, increase habitat values, and to achieve greater awareness of the function of the port and role of PoMC in providing open space for public use and enjoyment”.
A number of community interface projects have already been completed as part of the plan, with several more on the horizon in the next 12 months.

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