Newcastle Port Corporation is aiming to dramatically cut its massive coal ship queues.
The move has been welcomed by Shipping Australia, according to The Newcastle Herald.
Last year coal ship queues reached more than 50, despite major improvements made to the Hunter Valley Coal chain to reduce logjams.
While the development of the T4 coal loader is set to alleviate some of these issues, Port Waratah Coal Services, which will build and run the coal loader, said the T4 is unlikely to be in operation until mid 2017.
Regarding the schedule delay, Port Waratah explained that "although 2015 is the first year in which capacity from T4 is needed to fulfill contracts between producers and PWCS, detailed project schedules developed during the recently completed prefeasibility and option selection phase indicate that first coal is more likely to flow through T4 in mid-2017".
According to Shipping Australia CEO Llew Russell, his organisation stated back in 2009 that a 'vessel arrival system' instituted by the port in 2010 would also do very little to cut the ship load times and queues.
"We were trying to tell [then ports minister] Joe Tripodi that it was the way the coal was bought and sold that was the problem and that slowing the ships down on the way to Newcastle was not going to do anything about demurrage," Russell said.
Over the weekend Newcastle Port Corp head Gary Webb said the focus is on how to reduce these lead times and ship numbers.
It is understood that queues of around 50 or more ships costs upwards of $500 million.
"It gets down to a better way of working and of more accurately matching loads with shipping capacity," Russell explained.
"Gary’s on the right track and we wish him well because if he gets success in these areas it could well be emulated at other ports" such as Gladstone, Abbot Point, and Hay Point in Queensland.