Dalrymple solution close

QUEENSLAND coal companies are thrashing out a solution to export bottlenecks at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. Talks this week with operator Prime Infrastructure aim to settle access and prices to unlock spending for the port’s expansion.
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Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal

Angie Tomlinson

The queue of coal ships waiting to be loaded outside the central-Queensland port has grown to as many as 48 vessels.

Prime Infrastructure said the Queensland Competition Authorities’ (QCA) compulsory price restrictions made investment uneconomic. In October 2004 the QCA made a draft ruling cutting Dalrymple Bay's terminal infrastructure charges to $1.53 per tonne.

Dalrymple Bay Users Group chairman Mike Allen told International Longwall News whilst the current fee sat at $2.08/t, he expected to negotiate a price below $2/t with Prime.

“The floor is what the QCA process has indicated and I think Prime has accepted it is going to be something less that the current $2.08. The worst case is for Prime is it will be $1.53, but I think there is scope for something a bit different,” he said.

Allen said to cure the Dalrymple queue it was likely an allocation system or loading entitlement system would be put in place, which would have a similar effect as the system Port Waratah implemented at the Newcastle Port. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval may be needed for such a system.

Coal companies briefed treasurer Peter Costello Tuesday this week on the situation, after he threatened the federal government would become involved in the solution process.

“We discussed and explained what the situation was to him and left it at that. We didn’t ask him to do anything for us, we didn’t see any role for him and we told him that,” Allen said.

“There is no role for the government to take in these negotiations. How can they? There is no legitimate legal basis for which a government can interfere in commercial negotiations.

“It is not something that the government can wave a magic wand and make the queue disappear. It is a long term solution with a whole lot of complex issues involved, they will only be addressed through a normal commercial arrangement in time.”

Allen said he expected a solution to be reached by April at the latest.

Anglo Coal, Rio Tinto, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, Xstrata, Foxleigh and Macarthur made up the Dalrymple Bay Users Group.

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