Fortescue’s subsidiary Pilbara Marine has won the tender for the second towage licence at Port Hedland.
The decision is set to increase competition in towage services at the port, Fortescue stating, “the licence and tug facilities provide additional capacity and alternative supplier of tug services for all users of Port Hedland”.
It comes a year after BHP’s announcement of new harbour expansions for Port Hedland tugboats.
Around US$240 million will be spent on construction of a new eight-pen tug harbour at Hunt Point, as well as an additional six tugboats to meet projected increasing demand for the iron ore port, with work slated to be completed in the September quarter of this year.
The project will also include upgrade of workshop facilities, operational and service berths, and two small boat moorings at the Nelson Point tug harbour.
FMG CEO Nev Power welcomed the Pilbara Ports Authority decision to grant it a second licence.
“The introduction of choice and competition through the award of a second licence will benefit all users of the port, and will ensure FMG can provide long-term, sustainable towage services crucial to meeting the demands of our customers,” he said.
Under the terms of the licence, Pilbara marine will build marine and landside facilities for the development of a tug haven behind Anderson Point berths one to three, and provide towage services for an initial term of 15 years, which is slated to being in 2019.
The win is a positive move for Fortescue e, which – along with BHP – went head to head with tugboat operators and the Maritime Union of Australia over tugboat operator pay, at one point threatening to stand down workers for ‘indefinite period of time’ over a long pay dispute in which tugboat deckhands demanded a 40 per cent pay rise over four years.