Ports overhaul for Queensland

THE Queensland Resource Council called for caution after Treasurer Andrew Fraser’s announcement of a major overhaul of state-owned port authorities, warning billions of dollars of export income are at stake.

Claire Svircas

The revamp will see the expansion of the Port of Townsville and the creation of two new port corporations – the Far North Ports Corporation, based in Cairns, and the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, to oversee the ports at Mackay, Weipa, Hay Point and Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

The restructure is said to be in response to the increasing infrastructure bottlenecks along the coast with the price of coal hitting record levels.

Acting QRC chief executive Greg Lane said he welcomed the promise of improved customer focus with the proposed North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation.

But Lane said the commercial acumen and customer service skills of the new corporation’s board and management team will inevitably determine the success or otherwise of the restructure.

“While it is seen as desirable for service providers, such as port managers, to be close to their customers, physical proximity is not a substitute for a culture of commitment to meeting customer needs,” Lane said.

Lane commented the state government would be tested in its ability to attract high calibre and experienced board members to the new corporation, bearing in mind it is a critical component of the supply chain for the export industries that underpin the Queensland and Australian economies.

Under the proposal, the biggest restructure relates to the Ports Corporation of Queensland, which currently manages most of the far north ports, as well as key growth port Abbot Point.

“The new North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation will have a physical presence in Bowen, which is currently managed offsite from Brisbane,” Fraser said.

“The principal office for the new corporation will be located in Mackay within the next five years, as the transition is made from the former Ports Corporation of Queensland structure.

“The Mackay Port Corporation will be part of the new Bulk Ports Corporation and the chair of the Mackay Port Corporation will be a member of the NQ Bulk Ports Corporation board.”

The new North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation will also assume control for the state-owned Hay Point Port as well as for the possible development of Dudgeon Point.

The Port of Weipa will also be managed by the new NQ entity which will retain a Brisbane office, given its extensive corporate customer base in Brisbane.

Townsville Ports Corporation will acquire responsibility for the Port of Lucinda and the ports of the cape from Mourilyan around to Karumba, and including Thursday Island, will be managed by a new Far North Ports Corporation to be headquartered in Cairns.

The government plans to conduct a further round of detailed consultations with all affected entities and stakeholders in the next few months to finalise arrangements.

The process is expected to take until the end of the year.

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