Tasmanian ports play big part in oil and gas industry

The Bell Bay region and port on the Tamar River provides a service hub for Bass Strait activities. Photo: Tasmanian Ports Corporation 2014.

The Bell Bay region and port on the Tamar River provides a service hub for Bass Strait activities. Photo: Tasmanian Ports Corporation 2014.

August 8, 2015

By Emma Brown

TASMANIA is home to more than 40 enterprises involved in the oil and gas, offshore and sub-sea industries.

These numbers are likely to grow as oil and gas activity in South-East Australia and the Bass Strait expands. Behind the growing hub of activity is a number of groups who are working together to help create opportunities for Tasmanian  industry.

Tasmanian Maritime Network

Helping to propel this growing industry by providing strategic direction and support for the maritime industry in the country is the Tasmanian Maritime Network (TMN). The TMN, comprising businesses in the maritime industry, assists both government and industry to create opportunities for the marine sector and, in turn, the state economy.

TMN chairman Richard Lowrie said the organisation was valuable to the oil and gas industry.

“TMN provided a network to smaller Tasmanian businesses to work together to achieve its outcomes,” Mr Lowrie said.

“Many large, international oil and gas clients want suppliers to be large entities which mean smaller suppliers who may provide a better product or service are precluded.

“As a collaborative network, member businesses can work together on securing opportunities demonstrating strength through a greater supplier mass.”

Mr Lowrie said a number of Tasmanian companies provided quality products and services to the oil and gas industry using existing infrastructure.

“There is a 3000 tonne ship lift on the Tamar River in Launceston which was purposely constructed to service the industry,” he said.

“The TasPorts facilities in Bell Bay also provide areas where lots of maintenance and repair services are undertaken.

“These facilities compete very favourably with mainland service providers due to various advantages and cost efficiencies that doing business in Tasmania offers.”

Mr Lowrie said Tasmania offers some significant comparative advantages over other states; labour in particular.

“We have a highly skilled labour force that, importantly, is multi-skilled in a number of trade disciplines,” he said.

“Labour costs are some of the cheapest in the country. The geographic and demographic spread of Tasmania’s regional population bases ensures access to skilled workers at low cost.

“We have a very stable workforce with very little employee turnover, ensuring a consistent supply of labour. For example, this means a supply vessel client can come to Tasmania with confidence that their vessel will be serviced with skilled workers.

“[These workers], most likely, will have done previous work and therefore know the ins and outs of their vessel and understand the demands and requirements of the client.”

TMN has achieved many milestones since its establishment. One of its largest to date was its participation in obtaining official recognition for an oil and gas precinct in Bell Bay in northern Tasmania. The network worked together with the Tasmanian government to achieve the official recognition, and today the precinct caters for vessels and other craft associated with current and future oil and gas activities.

Mr Lowrie welcomed the official recognition which reinforced the exciting potential of the precinct and the opportunities for increased business and employment in the region.

“The future potential of the oil and gas industry is huge,” Mr Lowrie said.

“Tasmania and the oil and gas precinct is well placed to capitalise on the expansion of the industry into the South Eastern regions of Australia, providing significant demand for Tasmania’s maritime products and services.”

TasPorts

The Bell Bay region and port, about 50kms north of Launceston, is managed and operated by government-owned entity TasPorts.

It is one of Tasmania’s major commercial ports, providing  a service hub for Bass Strait activities. This includes berthing offshore platforms, fixed-asset maintenance on significant sub-sea energy infrastructure small ship servicing, and the provision of support to polar and cruise ship standards.

The port is accessible and navigable, making it popular for international delivery of project components, steelwork and parts for offshore activities.

TasPorts was established with the amalgamation of the state’s four port companies, Hobart Ports, Port of Launceston, Port of Devonport and Burnie Port Corporation in early 2006.

The governing group is dedicated to the maritime industry, both nationally and internationally, for the purpose of facilitating trade for the benefit of Tasmania through the commercial provision of infrastructure and services.

Major commercial ports include Bell Bay, Burnie, Devonport and Hobart.

In the 2013-2014 financial year TasPorts developed its 30 Year Port Plan. Underpinned by extensive research and analysis, the plan was designed to set out a clear, long term vision for the strategic development of Tasmania’s ports.

TasPorts chairman Dan Norton said it continued to invest heavily in the revitalisation of its commercial and community portside infrastructure.

In 2013-2014 TasPorts experienced an 11 per cent increase in freight volumes from its ports to 12.6 million tonnes, up from 11.3 million tonnes last financial year.

The growth was supported largely by increased forestry and mineral sector exports. In particular, the Bell Bay port saw a 6.8 per cent increase in imports and a 61.4 per cent increase in exports in the 2013/2014 financial year.

Mr Lowrie said the Bell Bay precinct was an area capable of catering to growing demands in the future.

“The whole area is large enough to cater for massive expansion,” Mr Lowrie said.

“Access to the area is easy and serviced by road and rail.

As demand grows [in the industry], so will the attraction of the area to more service providers creating a high use innovative, one-stop-shop precinct.”

The future

According to the Tasmanian government the country has a lot to offer the oil and gas industry, now and into the future. A number of local businesses specialise in marine and maritime technology, services and training and could provide innovative, best practice solutions for the oil and gas industry at competitive costs.

The state’s marine manufacturing sector has grown substantially, now supplying a wide range of products and services; from fast vehicle passenger ferries and military support vessels, to smaller vessels such as oil and gas work boats and seismic support vessels. In addition to this the Southern Marine ShipLift’s Syncrolift on the Tamar River at Launceston offers an out-of-water service to Bass Strait craft, including oil rig supply vessels and tugs.

Mr Lowrie said these facilities and services were likely to grow in demand with the expansion of the oil and gas industry in south-east Australia and Bass Strait.

“Northern Tasmania in particular will play a significant role in the future of the industry,” he said.

“This increased demand for products and services will lead to the increased development of our capability to service the industry.

“One example of this is the potential to relocate the ShipLift from Launceston to Bell Bay which would cut several hours of travel time for ships.”