Big year for Port of Darwin

As the Top End terminus of the AustralAsian Rail link, the Port of Darwin has, in the past twelve months, seen an impressive number of new developments and trading ‘firsts’. Claire Bell writes for Australian Mining.

Darwin is now firmly established as ‘Australia’s Northern Gateway Port’. Claire Bell writes for Australian Mining.

As the Top End terminus of the AustralAsian Rail link, the Port of Darwin has, in the past twelve months, seen an impressive number of new developments and trading ‘firsts’.

Robert Ritchie was appointed as the Darwin Port Corporation’s new CEO in May 2007.

“I have taken over at a time when the Corporation is growing significantly in parallel with the growth of Darwin, the Territory and the region’s mining boom and it will be an exciting time providing infrastructure to meet the expected demand,” he acknowledged.

The most obvious example of new infrastructure is the Port of Darwin’s new $24m bulk materials handling facility at East Arm.

Forming a dramatic visual change to the skyline, it includes a 2000 TPH travelling gantry shiploader and was first used to load manganese ore for China on the MV ‘Qing Ping Hai’ which docked in mid-August 2007. OM (Manganese) Limited is now expected to export around 650,000 tonnes to China each year.

This visionary development has helped to encourage regional mining development in the Territory, and the Port’s close alliance with Freightlink, the operators of the rail link, provides the ability to secure new bulk materials customers from further afield and will continue to do so into the future.

The export of bulk minerals was further assured when the Darwin Port Corporation announced that Oxiana Limited had selected the True North Alliance of FreightLink and Giacci Bros Transport to handle their exports and nominated the Port of Darwin as their preferred port for Oxiana’s copper concentrates exports from its Prominent Hill mine in South Australia over 2200 km away.

It is expected that around 240,000 tonnes of the precious cargo will pass through the port each year. Securing the Oxiana business was an important milestone in the development of the AustralAsia Trade Route and confirms the Port of Darwin as Australia’s northern gateway for mineral exports.

The first shipment of iron ore out of Darwin for 33 years took place when 67,000 tonnes of Territory Resources’ lump ore was loaded on the MV ‘Yerotsakos’ in September 2007.

The company, which has been stockpiling cargo since the first train load of Frances Creek iron ore was unloaded in July, has indicated it will require at least one ship a month before ramping up to full production of 1.5m tonnes per annum.

Another first came with the opening and commissioning of the Vopak Darwin Acid Tank and pipeline in September 2007. It is anticipated that a total of 171,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid will be delivered to the facility each year.

A new shipping service came into operation when Mocean Shipping commenced its Darwin-Surabaya-Hai Phong-Singapore service with the MV ‘Territory Trader’ calling at East Arm.

The vessel exchanged 2,000RT of breakbulk cargo mainly related to servicing the offshore oil and gas industries. This service is realising significant cargoes from the Hai Phong and Singapore calls and is developing a great deal of interest from the Surabaya calls.

The Port is also recognised as a major regional support and service centre for the offshore oil and gas industry.

More than 50 LNG carrier calls were completed at the new Darwin LNG facilities in the Port of Darwin.

The Darwin Port Corporation supplied marine pilots and developed the navigation and safety aspects of the carriers’ calls to the Port of Darwin.

Live cattle exports are an important part of the Northern Territory’s — and Australia’s — agricultural economy, and the Port of Darwin is perfectly geared to handle around 50% of the nation’s livestock exports.

Darwin’s proximity to Australia’s beef producers and the growing markets of Asia, means cattle spend less time in transit and maintain their quality.

In October 2007 the MV ‘Stella Deneb’ loaded a world record shipment of 22,184 cattle at the Port of Darwin en route to Indonesia.

A busy year ahead

So, if 2007 was a year of ‘firsts’ and developments, then 2008 looks like being a year of consolidation and growth for the Port of Darwin.

To manage the challenges that such growth brings, there is a strong focus on the Corporation’s facilities and the provision of services through its wharves.

“The Corporation will undertake some major projects in 2008 which will be essential in meeting its future needs and maximising success,” Ritchie said.

“These projects include revisiting the East Arm Port Land Use Strategy and developing both a staged Port Development Plan and a Port Masterplan for East Arm. Also, a Review of Harbour Management and Pilotage Operations will be undertaken as part of a continuous improvement process.

“The Port is moving steadily forward and I am fortunate to be managing a dedicated team who understand the complex business of the organisation and are keen to see the Corporation develop and prosper.”

Darwin Port Corporation

08 8922 0660

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