A variety of port and one shipping project have been mentioned in the recently released Queensland budget papers.
The projects largely appear to be a repeat of previously announced projects but, overall, they do add up to a significant expenditure.
Cairns Marine Precinct
There is $30 million to support an infrastructure upgrade at the Ports North-owned Cairns Marine Precinct and to fund a business case for the future development of the precinct. The building of two new wharves and further works to upgrade services are expected to boost the ability in Cairns to carry out in-water maintenance on vessels used by the Australian Defence Force.
The Budget Paper also reference a projected need for $5.3 million to complete the Cairns Shipping Development Project, a $127 million project to widen and deepen the Trinity Inlet Shipping Channel and the Crystal Swing Basin. A new shipping swing basin, Smith’s Creek, was built. The main purpose was to facilitate the growth of the cruise industry in Cairns but it has additional benefits such as improving channel access, allowing larger overseas naval ships to have access, reduced tidal and loading restrictions on bulk carriers, relocation and installation of new nav aids, and a general improvement in port efficiency.
Multi-million dollar cost increase
In the forthcoming financial year, the State Government is forecasting an increase in cost from $193.5 million to $232 million for the Townsville Channel Capacity Upgrade. Other planned works this year include works on berth four upgrades (Townsville); tug berth upgrades (Mackay); replacement of the RG Tanna Shiploader 1; completing the Clinton Vessel Interaction Project (a safety-related channel widening project at Gladstone) and master-planning for the ports of Cairns & Mourilyan.
Finally, $21 million has been allocated to Queensland’s coastal shipping industry, including the establishment of a new shipping service between Townsville and Brisbane. This was flagged some considerable time ago with the Queensland Minister for Transport & Main Roads, Mark Bailey, noting back in July this year that the State government wanted to re-invigorate shipping along the coast.
The measure in the budget papers appears to be the fulfilment of a pre-election promise made in late October issued by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who pledged $21 million over two years to create maritime jobs. In that release, Mr Bailey commented: “A multi-purpose container ship can carry the equivalent of 360 trucks packed with product… Making better use of coastal shipping gives businesses more transport options and can improve road safety on the Bruce highway and other regional roads too.”
Shipping Australia largely agrees with Mr Bailey on these points except that a dedicated container ship can actually carry a heck of a lot more cargo than the equivalent of 360 trucks. Better use of coastal shipping would, we agree, benefit business and improve safety.
There’s just no need for the Queensland State Government to spend $21 million dollars on it. All that is needed is reform of the national cabotage laws and the ocean shipping industry will gladly provide a comprehensive, efficient and value-for-money service.