Port expansion delays costing $1bn: minister

THE federal government's failure to address marketing issues facing the Port of Newcastle is costing the region more than $1 billion in lost export earnings, member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday.

Staff Reporter

Addressing Federal Parliament, Fitzgibbon called on the Government to reduce restraints on the port's capacity by promoting greater competition in the coal-loading industry.

He said the quota system, which was designed to reduce coal ship queues, was being manipulated by big players such as Xstrata and Rio Tinto to the detriment of smaller coal companies.

"I'm frankly more concerned about any role the major players like Xstrata might be playing in delaying capacity expansion at the Port of Newcastle," Fitzgibbon said.

In September last year, coal majors including BHP Billiton, Excel Coal, Donaldson Coal and Centennial Coal formed an infrastructure group to ensure their views on the expansion of the Hunter Valley coal export supply chain were heard. AMCI also later joined the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG).

NCIG said its core aim was to ensure adequate long-term capacity of port and rail infrastructure to export coal from Newcastle. They said future infrastructure would need to accommodate an additional 30 million tonnes in increased production from the four companies over the next five to ten years.