Newcastle port's future still in doubt

A LONG-term coal export plan for Newcastle Port has not been agreed on by the ACCC-imposed deadline this week, a failure that could risk pushing the vessel queue out in the coming months.
Newcastle port's future still in doubt Newcastle port's future still in doubt Newcastle port's future still in doubt Newcastle port's future still in doubt Newcastle port's future still in doubt

Image courtesy of PWCS.

Angie Tomlinson

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission had issued a directive that the New South Wales government’s Newcastle Port Corporation, incoming coal loader Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and Port Waratah Coal Services sign an agreement on the port’s future by August 31.

However, NCIG failed to sign the deal by deadline and an agreement has not been reached.

The ACCC has now withdrawn its authorisation for the Newcastle allocation system.

“Despite the applicants being given six weeks notice, the ACCC is advised that one party has failed to execute,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

The commission, clearly frustrated, said the “unnecessary delays” would lead to forgone coal exports.

PWCS said because the interim authorisation had been formally revoked, there was a risk the vessel queue off Newcastle would grow in coming months. There are currently about 41 vessels off Newcastle.

“PWCS signed to the long-term plan in good faith, continuing a spirit of cooperation shown throughout the entire negotiation period,” PWCS general manager Graham Davidson said.

“We were in position to implement the tripartite plan in practice from January 1, 2010.

“However, there is still enormous scope to make progress with the New South Wales government, and this is where PWCS’s efforts will be focused from now on.”

The ACCC said with no agreement left it was now open to individual parties to lodge a new application for allocation authorisation.

NCIG is owned by BHP Billiton, Centennial Coal, Donaldson Coal, Peabody Energy, Felix Resources and Whitehaven Coal.

Hunter coal operators are reportedly holding an emergency session with Infrastructure Minister Joe Tripodi today.

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